The year was 1904 when the State Fair’s roots took hold. That first Fair’s attractions were simple and it was held in a single building on a 27-acre plot adjoining the Henry B. Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, where the University of Tampa stands today. It officially became the Florida State Fair in 1915 and now, 115 years after it all began, it is still going strong.

The 2019 Fair will be open for 11 days from February 7-18.

In addition to thrilling rides on the Midway, it would not be the Florida State Fair without many educational and entertaining attractions and performers. Where, for the price of a movie ticket, you can see a sea lion, a spectacular Big Top Circus, cheer on your favorite porker at the pig races, feed a giraffe from your own hand or take a ride in N3079G, the original Batcopter from the Batman TV series and the original Batman movie.

Captain Eugene Nock, A.T.P. acquired this world-famous helicopter and has meticulously restored N3079G to a complete airworthy condition (not included in admission or armband prices).

“We want both loyal patrons and those who have not yet visited the Fair to join us in making memories that will last a lifetime,” said Cheryl Flood, executive director of the Florida State Fair Authority.

There are plenty of new foods for you to try this year including Buffaloaded Mac and Cheese Quesadilla at Bryan’s Concessions; Giant Mozzarella Cheese Stick at Angela’s Pizza; Red Beans and Rice Funnel Cake at the Best Around. Spices, red beans and rice are mixed in the batter to turn this cake savory fried golden brown. Smoked sausage, onions, peppers and beans are added on top to bring it all together.

At the Happy Dough, you can enjoy Gourmet or Fried Cookie Dough. Enjoy The Birds Nest – two large scallops wrapped in angel hair fried and topped with lobster cream sauce at the Lock and Dam Eatery. While there you can pick up Italian Nachos.

The Giddy Piggy’s new offerings include Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Pulled Pork BBQ, Taco Grilled Cheese and Rainbow Grilled Cheese. Get your BBQ Pork on Pork Rind Nachos and Black Cherry Burger at Carousel Foods. The Pizza Emporium has a Cuban Pizza, Dijonnaise base topped w mozzarella/Swiss blend, roast pork, ham and pickles. Stop by Ma’s Irish Kitchen for a Classic Loaded Potato Bowl, Green Loaded Potato Bowl or Spicy Loaded Potato Bowl.

Music always takes center stage at the Fair. The Country Gold Tour will take place on Wednesday, February 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in The Entertainment Hall. General Admission Bleacher Seating is free, but there will be limited VIP Floor Seating for $20. On Saturday, February 9, you can enjoy a concert with James Hill, an award-winning ukulele player and a songwriter. His music has roots in Folk, Rock and Americana and he will take the stage from 8-10 p.m. The cost is $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the show. Concert tickets do not include gate admission.

While visiting the Fair, do not forget to visit the exhibits including the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame & Ag Showcase, Creative Living Competitions in the Florida Center, Florida Cattle Ranching Museum, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County Public Schools Showcase. There are many more to explore.

Bring your kids or grandkids to Cracker Country, a rural outdoor Florida living history museum where you feel like you have become part of the past. Immerse yourself in the life of a 19th century Florida pioneer.

Hillsborough County’s Student Day at the Fair will be on Friday, February 8. Students enter free with student tickets distributed by their school. Students must be accompanied by an adult, age 21 or older, after 6 p.m.

The Florida State Fairgrounds is located at 4800 U.S. Hwy. 301 N in Tampa. Gates open Monday through Thursday at 10 a.m. Midway opens at 1 p .m. On Friday, Saturday, Sunday and President’s Day, gates open at 9 a.m. and Midway opens at 10 a.m.

Admission prices range from $11 for adults during the week to $13 on weekends. Special pricing is available on certain days for seniors 55 and over and for children. Children ages 5 and under are free. You can also purchase discounted tickets through February 6 at participating Publix Supermarkets in Tampa Bay. For information on ticket and armband prices, visit

Cannot get enough of the Fair? Now you can purchase a Fair Mega-12 Day Pass for $70. This buys you unlimited rides and admission.

Call the Fair Box Office at 740-4640 to order your MegaPass, which is only available for purchase through January 31.

For a complete listing of events, visit

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Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.