In a county in which more than 36,000 acres of land is continues to be devoted to raising crops and livestock, the Hillsborough County Fair plays a vital role, said Betty Jo Tompkins, a founding member of the Greater Hillsborough County Fair Board of Directors.
“The main focus of the fair continues to be on promoting agriculture and our youth livestock shows for ages 8 to 18,” said Tompkins. “Each year an amazing number of animals are entered in our shows by kids from both rural and urban settings.”
Celebrating its 20th year, this year's county fair starts today and runs through Sunday at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds off State Road 60 in Dover.
“We have a lot of reasons to celebrate this year,” said Tompkins. “Not only have we been providing a great entertainment value to families for two decades, but we are hosting the grand opening of our new, beautiful 20,000-square-foot arena for exhibits and events.”
After staging the fair at various venues around the county, including Raymond James Stadium and the Florida State Fairgrounds, the Hillsborough County Fair found a permanent home when the Hillsborough County Commission agreed to lease a former 60-acre phosphate mine on Sydney-Washer Road to the fair association in 2005.
“Since then, we've been growing every year,” said Tompkins. “Our livestock shows are substantially bigger now than most of the fairs in Florida.”
On Tuesday, county commissioners and fair board members dedicated a new arena constructed with county capital improvement funds.
The $2 million project also included improved lighting, new restrooms, improved grand stands for access by those with disabilities, the installation of fire hydrants and the addition of eight handicapped parking spaces.
The fair, which officially kicks off at 5 p.m. today, features a midway of thrill rides, entertainment, livestock shows and fine art, baking, sewing, canning, photography and recycled yard art contests.
Highlights of the five-day event include a rodeo in the fair's 1,800-seat outdoor arena in which ranch hands compete in wild cow milking contests, bronc riding and branding; Herriot's Family Fun Circus; Robinson's Racing Pigs; the Firefighter Show; a new historical area in which Florida Crackers demonstrate the arts of blacksmithing, charcoal making and bullwhip cracking; the Bay Area Bandits mounted shooters; the 16th annual Teenage Battle of the Bands; a corn hole toss tournament; and the FishHawk-Riverview Rotary Club's annual chili cook-off.
For a complete schedule of entertainment and events, visit hillsborough countyfair.com.
Fairgoers also will have plenty to eat. Food booths will offer deep-fried Oreos, roasted corn, elephant ears and sausage sandwiches.