The Florida State Fair kicks off its 104th edition this Thursday, and the schedule features plenty of new things to eat, see and do for local connoisseurs of carnival-style delights.
More than 200 food vendors offer greasy-but-still-mouth-watering selections. Among the latest offerings are deep-fried cookie dough, pizza on-a-stick, "walking tacos" (basically, taco ingredients thrown into a bag of Fritos or Doritos and eaten with a fork or spoon), deep-fried fudge, deep-fried bratwurst, fried fruit on a stick, steamed clams from Cedar Key and a variety of authentic Hispanic fare in the new La Plaza Hispanic Village, which spotlights foods and cultural diversions from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Colombia.
The greatly expanded entertainment calendar includes GLITZ! — A Las Vegas Revue, a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and other Vegas stars by an extravagantly costumed cast of showgirls; "WWE Stars of Tomorrow," a bill of nine wrestling matches featuring Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) up-and-comers; the two-day Elvis Extravaganza Impersonator National Finals and the Florida State Roller Derby Championship.
The fair's 90-odd rides are augmented by a roller coaster from Morey's Piers Amusement Park that stands 158 feet tall at its highest point. The livestock show includes a new hands-on tour, Ag Venture, during which visitors learn about plants and foods unique to Florida and participate in a variety of arts and crafts activities and live demos. And a host of new exhibits gives locals info on anything from whom to vote for in the upcoming election to ways that Florida is seeking new renewable fuel technology.
2008 Florida State Fair, Feb. 7-18 (hours vary), Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N., Tampa, $10 admission adults/$5 children 6-11 (ages 5 and under enter for free; $20 for a sheet of 20 ride tickets; $20 Pepsi armband days Feb. 8, 10, 15, 17 and 18), 813-621-7821, floridastatefair.com.