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Nostalgia and Neon At the 80th Annual Sarasota County Fair

| Sande Caplin |

A fried Snickers bar was probably the furthest thing from the minds of the Founding Fathers of the Sarasota County Agricultural Fair.  Midways with glowing neon lights and rides twirling faster than the eye can follow and comfort foods including fried Twinkies, wispy cotton candy, and sausages on a stick defined a new culinary category known affectionately as “fair food” could hardly be on the minds of early fairgoers.  But history and flair combine once again for the Sarasota County Agricultural Fair which is celebrating its 80th birthday this year.

For many of us, the fair brings back happy memories of warm afternoons spent sipping lemonade and trying to make the tickets cover all of the rides that beckoned you. There was always the obligatory spin on the ferris wheel, and if you could stand it, the tilt-a-whirl was always a must.  For parents, grandparents, lovers, friends, and of course the young, the fair is a quintessential rite of passage that all must journey to, and most will return year after year to experience the wonder as the fair makes its yearly trek back to town.

Sarasota County Fair

Sarasota’s first agricultural fair began in the early 1920s when Calvin and Martha Payne contributed 60 acres of land, for a considerably low price, to be used for a fairground and other park purposes.  With a call from then-mayor E.J. Bacon for a community workday, residents constructed a fairground building and baseball field. The first Sarasota County Fair opened its gates on January 22, 1924.  

This year’s Sarasota County Fair fun and excitement begins March 18 and runs through March 27, and promises to be one for the books as the event celebrates its 80th anniversary.  An energetic midway full of rides, games, foods, treats and more will delight the young and bring back a comfortable nostalgic feel for the young at heart.  4-H and FFA exhibits, competitions and sales, will ground the weekend’s activities, along with an extensive lineup of live musical and entertainment acts.  Admission times and prices are listed below, for a complete overview of the Sarasota County Fair, please visit:

Photos:  Sarasota County Fair Website
BBQ Chicken by randychiu, courtesy of Flickr commercial use allowed

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