Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida State Fair opens for the 110th time

TAMPA — The crowd gasped when the man put his hand in the alligator's mouth.

"Dave, you're an animal!" audience member Shawn Clark, 28, yelled when performer David Castillo pinned the 8-foot alligator then heaved it in the air. "That gator about ate his face off."

Around the corner from the gator wrestling match, the scent of dough bathing in grease hung in the air as midway lights flashed and ride operators tried to entice fair-goers to test out the newest attraction.

The Florida State Fair opened Thursday with more than 6,000 animals, 100 rides and rows and rows of deep-fried food, including this year's darling, the Ramen Noodle Burger.

For the 110th year, people from across Tampa Bay and the state flocked to the fairgrounds to experience all the State Fair's scents, sights and flavors.

•••

Gov. Rick Scott flipped the switch at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, bringing the midway to life with flickering, buzzing lights.

Following a cabinet meeting which honored service members, volunteers, teachers and students, the governor made his way past stands touting fresh lemonade, turkey legs, corn dogs and funnel cakes. Every few seconds, someone stopped him to take photos or shake his hand.

"Aren't you in the news all the time?" 8-year-old Giovanni Everest of Walden Lake Elementary School asked Scott.

"I was on the news before you got up this morning," Scott replied.

•••

As the governor gripped and grinned, Janelle Balceiro, 16, prepared to show her 2-year-old miniature zebu (a type of cattle) in the Charlie Lykes Arena across the sprawling fairgrounds.

Blaze, a 573-pound bull, kicked the ground and bucked his head stubbornly as Janelle lead him around the ring.

Please don't get loose, Janelle thought as Blaze strained to pull away.

A judge walked around, evaluating the animals on their posture, body structure and how they look.

As Janelle struggled to keep Blaze calm, the judges announced the rankings of the eight participants. The teen smiled briefly, sweat dripping down her forward, as she and Blaze claimed third place.

Janelle, who attends Felix Varela Senior High School in Miami, decided to show cattle for the first time this year because she thought it would be a challenge.

"They're so big and stubborn," she said. "I didn't think anyone could manage them."

•••

By late afternoon, the much-acclaimed Comet II — the largest portable roller coaster in the United States — still hadn't opened to riders.

Kids tugged at their parents' arms and pointed as two maintenance workers climbed the 52-foot-tall coaster and tinkered with one of the carts.

Richard Horton, 45, of Orlando watched as workers tested the ride repeatedly.

"They use this ride a lot at the fairs in the Midwest," said Horton, who builds models of rides out of recycled materials such as bottle caps and paper clips. "I was going to ride it, but I guess we'll see."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Florida State Fair opens for the 110th time 02/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deandre Gilmore guilty, but not of murder, jury decides

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The actions of Deandre Gilmore caused the death of his girlfriend's 19-month-old daughter in 2014, but a Hillsborough County jury decided Friday it was manslaughter, not murder.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing Myla Presley the 19 month-old daughter of his then girlfriend Nayashia Williams while Gilmore was giving her a bath.
  2. Bucs-Bills: Things to watch in Sunday's 1 p.m. game

    Bucs

    FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2017, file photo, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs past Atlanta Falcons' De'Vondre Campbell (59) and Deion Jones (45) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Atlanta. The Bills play against the Buccaneers in Buffalo on Sunday. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) NY182
  3. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills

    Bucs

    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) watches a replay while sitting out with an injury during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. What to watch this weekend: 'The Walking Dead,' Stephen King's '1922'

    Blogs

    100 episodes of walkers: The Walking Dead

    Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead.
  5. Editorial: GOP failing to protect health care for Florida kids

    Editorials

    In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature is considering how to make it easier for low-income families to apply for subsidized health insurance for their children. In Washington, Congress cannot even agree on how to keep paying for the popular program. There is a disconnect that threatens health coverage for about 215,000 …

    In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature is considering how to make it easier for low-income families to apply for subsidized health insurance for their children. In Washington, Congress cannot even agree on how to keep paying for the popular program.