Food, fun and a celebration of all things agriculture are in store for visitors when the 110th edition of the Florida State Fair opens its gates today.
And if you’re active, reserve or retired military veterans, law enforcement, firefighters or first responders, today is your day — you get free admission with a valid ID for “Heroes Day.”
Opening day also includes a performance by 1970s and ’80s rock band America, free with fair admission.
“One of our missions is to give back to the community and its citizens,” said Chuck Pesano, executive director of the Florida State Fair Authority. “What better statement than to welcome our military, police and first responders and let them know we really care and say thank you.”
For the next 12 days, fairgoers can enjoy more than 100 midway rides, including the all-new Comet II, the largest traveling coaster in North America, and weird and wacky food, such as the Tornado Dog, a deep-fried hot dog wrapped in spiral-cut potatoes.
Last year, Carousel Foods unveiled an Ice Cream Burger. This year, they’re selling a Ramen Burger for $8.50. The sandwich tucks a beef patty, scallions and Asian slaw between two mounds of fried ramen noodles. Their 3Bs Burger loads bacon and beef brisket on a burger with buttered garlic toast and provolone cheese. At $12, it could easily feed two people.
As an option for health-conscious fair customers, Carousel owners Cheryl and Dennis Reas also will sell a Healthier Burger with a patty made with black beans, a slice of fried eggplant, provolone cheese and a whole-wheat thin bagel as a bun. It sells for $8.50.
For a snack, vendor Kevin McGrath of Fort Myers sells funnel cakes in an array of flavors and colors. His Bacon Maple funnel cake is smothered in butter, maple buttercream frosting, bacon bits and powdered sugar. In addition to a traditional version dusted with sugar, McGrath also offers three cotton candy flavored versions: a pink vanilla, a blue raspberry and one which combines both flavors. They sell for $7.
For dessert, Polar Bear Ice Cream of Cooperstown, N.Y., sells two new $8 sundaes. The Southern Comfort has four scoops of sweet potato-flavored ice cream, brown sugar, waffle chunks, torched marshmallows and homemade bacon candy. Their Pigs In Mud tops vanilla ice cream with hickory smoked salted caramel, bacon candy and hot fudge.
If you’re in the mood for a little shopping, head to the Expo Hall, where you’ll find everything from pianos to pub wall art, a session in a racing simulator, opals and framed butterflies. There also are a variety of livestock competitions — rabbits, horses, swine and chickens — a petting zoo and shows featuring everything from alligators to sea lions to Elvis Impersonators.
Gates open at 10 a.m., and tickets cost $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and $6 for children age 6 to 11 (prices go up on weekends). Today also is a ride armband day. For a full list of fair events, discounts and promotions, go to www.floridastatefair.com.