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State Fair Offers More Than the Midway

The Florida State Fair opens February 8 and runs through the 19th at the state fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. The first state fair was held in 1904 on the grounds of what is now the University of Tampa. The agricultural exhibits were held in just one building.

Today, the fair is housed on a 330-acre site at the intersection of Interstate 4 and Highway 301. Up to 500,000 people are expected to visit the fair over its 12-day run.

Fair-goers needing a break from one too many turns on the Tilt-A-Whirl can find more fun — and solid ground — at the fair’s many agricultural exhibits, featuring UF/IFAS Extension people and programs.

Sarah Hensley, UF/IFAS Extension 4-H state specialized agent for youth curriculum and evaluation, is actively engaged with the fair. As Sarah explains, “Agriculture has always been an important part of the Florida State Fair, and nowadays exhibits offer a chance for visitors to see a bigger picture of what a food system looks like, and where their food comes from.”

“It’s also an opportunity for our 4-H youth to show off their skills and hard work, whether they’re showing a steer, talking with the public at an ask me booth, or mingling with legislators during the Governors Luncheon,” Hensley said.

Here are eight things of an agricultural and 4-H nature you don’t want to miss at this year’s fair in Tampa, Florida. Please see the Florida State Fair event calendar for more events and times.

1. Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

This permanent fair exhibit showcases the impact of various scientists, farmers and other leaders on Florida agriculture — a special treat for fans of Florida state history.

2. 4-H Dog Show

More than 90 4-H youth will compete in this three-part competition testing showmanship, obedience and agility. Participants have trained with their canine companions throughout the year to master commands, an obstacle course and more.

3. Livestock contests

4-H and FFA youth will be busying showing off their prize-winning animals, and judging horses, cattle, sheep and swine.

4. Horse contests

If you enjoy seeing horses in action, these contests are for you. This crowd-pleasing event features youth competing in various performance classes.

5. Chicken and rabbit barn

Those who like animals of the small, cute variety will find much to coo over in the chicken and rabbit barn.

6. Ask Me booths

Have a burning question about an animal species you saw at the fair? One of the very knowledgeable 4-H youths staffing the “Ask Me” booths can help. Booths can be found throughout the fair’s livestock barns.

7. Family Living Center

Not into animals but love all things hearth and home? The Family Living Center displays the handiwork of youth and adults. Competition categories include horticulture, baking, canning, fiber arts and more.

8. 4-H Global Education display

Visitors will learn about opportunities for 4-H participants to travel overseas and stay with a host family. As part of the program, Florida 4-H youth will host 12 students from Japan this summer.

Ongoing events:
  • Ag Hall of Fame building
  • Family Living Center
  • 4-H Global Education display
  • Ask Me booths
  • Livestock barns
Scheduled events:
Event Time(s) Location
Youth beef showmanship/show Feb. 9, 9 a.m.

Feb. 12 & 13, 10 a.m.

Charlie Lykes Arena
FFA/4-H livestock judging contest Feb. 10, 9 a.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
FFA/4-H horse judging contest Feb. 10, 1:30 p.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
4-H Dog Show Feb. 10, 6 p.m.

Feb. 11, 9 a.m.

Charlie Lykes Arena
Youth rabbit showmanship Feb. 10, 9 a.m. Rabbit and Poultry barn
Youth swine show Feb. 11, 12 p.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
Youth steer show Feb. 14, 7 p.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
Youth Boer goat show Feb. 14, 10 a.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
Youth poultry showmanship Feb. 15, 9 a.m. Rabbit and Poultry barn
Youth llama showmanship Feb. 16, 5:30 p.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
Youth poultry showmanship Feb. 16, 9 a.m. Rabbit and Poultry barn
Youth llama performance Feb. 17, 9 a.m. Charlie Lykes Arena
Youth sheep show Feb. 17, 11 a.m.

Feb. 18, 11 a.m.

Goat/sheep tent
Pygmy goat show Feb. 17, 10 a.m.

Feb. 18, 10 a.m.

Swine/Pygmy goat tent
Youth dairy show Feb. 17, 9:30 a.m.

Feb. 19, 9:30 a.m.

Charlie Lykes Arena

So don’t miss out on all the great educational events and fun available at the Florida State Fair. I look forward to seeing you there!

Follow me on Twitter @nplace01.

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