The 74th annual Pasco County Fair is happening this year, with some modifications from previous years, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The fair’s theme is “The Adventure Continues,” and the show will run Feb. 15 through Feb. 21 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52 in Dade City.
Even amid the pandemic, fair organizers are assuring a fun, enjoyable and safe time for all.
Details about the festival were shared at a Jan. 19 Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, hosted at the fairgrounds. Speakers included Pasco County Fair Association president R.J. Huss and annual fair chairman Tracy Thompson.
Several measures are being taken in the way of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including quadrupling the number of hand sanitizer stations and investing in a fogger machine. There also will be indoor mask requirements, social distancing recommendations, spaced seating, and one-way aisles in designated areas.
“We’re going full steam ahead at having a fair,” Huss said at the meeting. “We’ve talked to multiple different people in our local government, state government, and we feel confident that we can do it.”
There will be one key departure from prior county fairs: This year’s event won’t feature the typical kick-off parade in downtown Dade City, which usually features marching bands, colorful floats, mounted horse units and more.
The showy serenade was a no-go after fair organizers consulted with the Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez, Dade City Police Chief James Walters and other officials.
Said Thompson, “It was just not physically possible to get a permit to ensure everyone’s safety this year for the parade, so it had to be nixed, but we’re hoping to come back on our 75th anniversary (in 2022) to have a bigger and better parade.”
However, the fair expects to make up for the parade absence in other ways — including its full entertainment lineup and slew of other activities.
One of the headliners is “The Wagsters,” a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-based magic show that encompasses illusions and sleight-of-hand tricks, mixed in with some comedy and audience interaction.
The husband and wife team of Brandon and Hannah Wagster will perform on the Back Porch Theatre all weeklong, at designated times in the afternoon and evening.
This will mark the magic duo’s first-ever show in Florida after an accomplished eight-year run at The Carolina Opry Theatre and over 850 performances.
They come well-accredited, having earned the International Magician Society Merlin Award for “Best Theatrical Magic Production,” among other honors.
One event back after a long hiatus is “ClogJam,” an exhibition-style competition featuring folk dance cloggers from across the state. That is scheduled for Feb. 20 at 11 a.m., at the Dan Cannon Auditorium.
For those unfamiliar, clogging involves dancers using their footwear percussively, by striking the heel, toe or both against a floor or each other to create audible rhythms.
“Many years ago we had a clogging show in here and people loved it, and there’s been a lot of chatter on Facebook and around town,” Thompson said.
In the way of kid-friendly attractions, “Walking With Giants,” popular with the younger crowd, is returning. The interactive strolling show features moving, animatronic prehistoric dinosaurs and dragons that children can crawl on, play on and pose with for pictures.
The lifelike creatures measure 8 feet tall and 16 feet long, with realistic eye-blinking, tail-swooshing and mighty roars.
That show can be found in the Schrader Building Entertainment Area all week.
“The dinosaur thing was a big hit last year, the kids loved it, so we brought that back,” Thompson said of the attraction.
Other noteworthy happenings throughout the week include a stunt thrill circus, a comedy hypnotist, racing pigs, community talent show, pageants, sanctioned rodeo show and bluegrass and gospel concerts, plus other frills.
All in all, Thompson is “extremely happy” with the lineup the association was able to book through the pandemic. “We’ve got top-notch entertainment coming from across the nation,” Thompson said. “We’re always in the cutting edge of finding new entertainment.”
Meantime, the independent midway again will offer a little taste of everything for fairgoers working up a thirst and appetite.
Besides traditional fair grub — such as pizza, corn dogs and cotton candy — new offerings this year include fried vegetables, corn fritters and donut burgers. (Some of those calories can seemingly be burned off while venturing throughout the 30-acre hillside fairgrounds.)
Fair exhibits will take on a new twist this year, too.
While youth ag and plant auctions still will be handled in person, they’ll also be simulcast online, where bidders virtually can partake in the action in real-time.
The youth steer sale is Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., at the Albert A. Barthle Livestock Pavilion; the hog sale is Feb. 20 at 5 p.m., at the Barthle Livestock Pavilion; and, the plant sale is Feb. 21 at noon at the Joe Herrmann Greenhouse.
Huss noted the online auction feature is “something I think the fair should’ve been doing for a long time,” adding its youth exhibitors could see their projects go for a higher price because of it.
Details are still being worked out with an auctioneering company on software, cameras, broadcast links and so on.
Fair officials seek big turnout
The annual shindig typically draws between 45,000 to 50,000 visitors over the course of the entire week.
Huss and other organizers don’t have a particular attendance figure in mind for this year, but expect a solid showing even with challenges posed by the virus.
Huss noted the Manatee County Fair — the first Florida-based fair to open in 2021 on Jan. 14 —has reported strong attendance and positive reviews for its COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“I think we’ll have a great turnout, but it’s hard to project,” said Huss. “We’ve heard of record attendance at some of the other fairs across the state, (but) I just don’t know if we can commit to expecting that, just because of the unknown. How many people in this area do want to get out, versus how many are concerned about the COVID?”
The fair is run by the Pasco County Fair Association Inc., an independent, nonprofit organization which relies mostly on local community sponsorships, fair memberships, guest revenue, and rental income from the buildings housed on the fairgrounds.
Officials say the fairgrounds underwent an eight-month event rental freeze between March and November due to COVID-19; the first major event to return was the Florida Bug Jam back on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8
Huss said the shutdown represented “a pretty substantial income loss” for the association, but “we are still putting on a very good fair, with those budgets cut.”
“We’re doing everything that we can do, and I think we’re going to have a great fair,” he said.
For more information, visit PascoCountyFair.com, or visit the Pasco County Fair Association on Facebook.
Pasco County Fair
When: Feb. 15 through Feb. 21 (Hours vary)
What: Rides, food, games, entertainment, livestock and exhibits
Where: Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52, Dade City
Cost: Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 through 12, free for ages 5 and under; parking is free. Discounted gate and ride tickets are available online at PascoCountyFair.com.
Info: Visit PascoCountyFair.com, call 352-567-6678, or email .
If you go
- Check the weather report — Be prepared with sunscreen and visors on warm,
sunny days. Have a jacket or sweatshirt for cool evenings. A poncho or umbrella
is a good idea if skies turn gray.
- Wear comfortable shoes —With over 30 acres of activities and the fairgrounds
being located on a hillside, there is plenty of walking in store.
• Leave coolers at home — No bottles, cans, coolers or picnic baskets are
permitted on the fairgrounds.
- Bring a camera — There figures to be plenty of memorable moments, so bring a
camera or video camera to capture the special day. (Note: Use of cameras and video cameras may be prohibited during certain entertainment events.)
- Leave your pets at home — With the exception of service animals, pets are
not permitted on the fairgrounds.
- Parking — Parking is free at the fairgrounds. Be sure to lock your vehicle,
and take note of where you have parked. Take a minute to familiarize yourself
with your surroundings when you arrive to avoid confusion when you depart. When
driving in the parking lot, please drive with caution and keep an eye out for people walking in the lot.
- Once inside the fairgrounds — Be sure to pick up a daily schedule at the Information booth. This is the best way to plan your day and to be aware of all there is to see and do at the Pasco County Fair.
- Health & safety — Pasco County Fair officials ask everyone to wash his or her hands before leaving the restrooms, animal areas, and barns — especially before eating. Hand-sanitizing stations are located throughout the fairgrounds and food court area.
- Volunteers needed
The Pasco County Fair Association is in search of volunteers for the fair, for gates and buildings, to fill these slots:
- Feb. 15 – three shifts
- Feb. 16 to Feb. 19 – two shifts
- Feb. 20 – various shifts
- Feb. 21 – two shifts
A volunteer breakfast is scheduled for Jan. 30 at 9 a.m. For information or to sign up as a volunteer, call 352-567-6678.
Published January 27, 2021