2017 Dates: February 9 - 20
Think Florida's way too urbanized to have a real county-style fair? Think again! Florida's annual State Fair is one of the most anticipated family events. Celebrated for the first time in 1904, the event always draws tens of thousands of visitors.
The event is held each year in the Tampa Bay area. This 355-acre complex may not be your typical fairground – with its grand expositional halls and entertainment venues, but it's the perfect spot for this yearly event and accommodates droves people who wouldn't dream of missing it.
The 12-day-long celebration is designed to showcase the best of the state's agricultural and equestrian industries but it really is so much more. Sponsored by the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, it features a lot more than just cows, pigs, and a pie-baking contest or two. It literally covers the grounds, both inside and out, and provides hours of fun for visitors of all ages.
Competitions are a huge part of the activities as they are with all fairs. Participants can compete in more than two dozen categories including baking, fine art, photography, sewing and needlework, various crafts, woodcarving, and horticulture. There's even a wine-making competition and a high school art exhibition and competition. Youth can also compete in baton twirling, cheerleading, and dance. Multiple prizes are awarded in all categories.
Animal displays are an important part. Guests can view 4-H club animals and take a look at some notable prize winners. There are even some opportunities to get up-close and personal with creatures from Florida's many farms.
While visitors are welcome to spend most of their time browsing the tables of competition entries, daily shows also make up a large portion of the entertainment. Shows encompass a huge variety of fare, including pig races, sea lion shows, circus performances, alligator wrestling, children's theater productions, and much more.
Music is everywhere. Small ensembles perform at daytime concerts while headliners take the stage at night for the most anticipated shows. These concerts generally include well-known regional artists and sometimes nationally-known performers of yesterday or today. Some headliner concerts carry an extra fee and are not included with general admission.
Of course, what would a state fair be without food? The choice of good eats are many and diverse, and visitors can enjoy everything from food like hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, and cotton candy, to much more elaborate choices. Concessions are located throughout the grounds and most food is very affordable.
Kids love the midway-style games and amusements, which include perennial favorites like spinning tea cups, Ferris wheels, and a plethora of kiddie rides. The midway is open every day and there is a separate charge for rides and games.
The expansive fairground is located close to Interstates 4, 75, and 275, not far from Busch Gardens, Tampa.
Facilities at the location include an 88,000 square-foot Expo Hall, which is used also for a variety of shows throughout the year, including the Ringling Bros. Circus, the Florida Home Show, and the annual Tampa Boat Show.
The Entertainment Hall, which seats 5,000, and the Charles M. Davis Special Events Center, which seats 3,000, are used for indoor concerts that take place. During the rest of the year, they accommodate other musical and special events that demand a sizeable seating capacity.
Also on hand at the fairgrounds is the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center and its accompanying arena and pavilion. Various events will be held here and the center is also a year-long venue for excellent horse shows and competitions.
Barns, other non-air conditioned buildings and plenty of outdoor space accommodate the rest of the fair's many events.