At first glance, it may seem to be all about the rides.
After all, there are a lot of them.
Or, perhaps it’s all about the food.
Fried anything, anyone?
Or, maybe it would seem to be about the games or entertainment.
There are certainly plenty of choices.
But really, the stars of the Pasco County Fair are the kids and their livestock.
At least that’s how Clark Converse, general manager of the fair, sees it.
“The biggest thing about our fair is that we maintain our roots in agriculture in the community. That’s what really we’re about … it’s about the agriculture and the kids,” he said.
“We have great participation in that. There are probably 300 to 400 livestock entries in the fair,” he said.
“They’re all from Pasco County,” he added, with no small measure of pride.
The fair, at 36722 State Road 52 in Dade City, is rooted in the desire to promote Pasco County’s youth and its other resources.
Although fairs had been held in the community dating back to around 1915, one hadn’t been held there for years until a group of local businessmen got together in 1947 and decided to begin hosting the annual event, according to the fair’s website.
San Antonio rancher D.E. Cannon led the group, which included agriculture agent Jimmy Higgins and businessmen George Nikolai, Bob Williams and Joe Collura. They found a 40-acre tract along State Road 52 and raised $3,500 to purchase the site.
The first documented Pasco County Fair took place between Jan. 20 and Jan. 24, 1948.
Besides giving families a chance to enjoy themselves, and visitors a chance to gorge on fair food, the event also provides a platform for youths to showcase their skills.
“We’re growing kids. That’s the focus,” Converse said.
“It’s important for me to give the kids in our county a chance to show off their talents and their skills,” he said.
“They can do their stuff at school … and the only people who see it are people who come to the school. But, to be able to put that out into the public at a fair is a great opportunity for these kids. They don’t have anyplace else,” he said.
At the fairgrounds, there is a huge school exhibit building where kids’ works are on display.
There’s also a Lego competition this year, “which is something new and different,” Converse said.
The fair also is reviving its bluegrass night and its gospel night.
“We’re bringing back Little Roy and Lizzie, which is a perennial crowd favorite in the bluegrass industry,” he said. Their show will be Feb. 17 at 6 p.m., at the Dan Cannon Auditorium.
“On Thursday night, we have an internationally known gospel group called The Hoppers, along with a quartet that’s actually part of the family, too, called The Hoppers 2.0,” Converse said.
That show will be on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m., at the Dan Cannon Auditorium.
The Hoppers are widely known, Converse said.
“We’re really excited about having them, because they’re a bigger name act than we normally get at this fair, because we’re just a small, country fair,” he said.
“Bringing the gospel (night) back, to me, is a big thing,” Converse added.
The fair, which runs through Feb. 21, also has a few other new twists.
There are some new rides on the Midway, there’s a new Disc-Connected K9s, Frisbee-dog show, and there’s a firefighter’s show that’s both educational and entertaining, Converse said.
The community pitches in to put on the fair, Converse noted.
“Over the course of the fair, between the directors and the committee chair people and all of the volunteers who help, there’s probably 400, maybe as many as 500 people.
“We’re all volunteers. None of us get paid for doing this. So, it’s a labor of love,” he said.
But, he thinks it’s the worth the time, effort and energy he invests in it.
“For me, agriculture in Florida is a very vital part of Florida’s economy and what Florida is. People aren’t aware of it.
“It’s important for me, and for us, to make sure that kids are educated in agricultural things, and understand that milk doesn’t come from Winn-Dixie and eggs don’t come from Publix, they come from cows and chickens, those kinds of things,” Converse said.
Pasco County Fair
When: Through Feb. 21 (hours vary, check the website at PascoCountyFair.com)
What: Rides, food, games, entertainment, livestock and exhibits.
Where: Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52
How much: Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children 6 through 12; parking is free. Wristbands are available for unlimited rides. Parking is free. (On Feb. 21, one child is admitted free with each adult)
Published February 17, 2016