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Lee fair opens Thursday

By Staff | Feb 19, 2015

While many people go to the Lee County Fair to eat funnel cakes and go on the rides, the backbone to any county fair is the livestock and their exhibitors.

The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair opens Thursday at the Lee Civic Center, and more than 400 livestock exhibitors have registered, with animals ranging from steer and swine to chickens and rabbits.

All have the dream of taking home a ribbon and earning big bucks at the livestock auction.

Meanwhile, the Creative Living department also has been busy accepting applications, demonstrating the community’s many talents in areas such as crafts, canned foods, art, photography and horticulture.

Having registered their animals in the fall, the young 4-H and other exhibitors have been busy taking care of their animals and getting them ready to show.

“The kids are very excited. We have about 400 youth getting ready. They’re getting their books together to show their costs,” said Kathy Suggs, 4-H agent. “They’re getting their attire in order, having showmanship workshops so they have confidence before the judges.”

The exhibitors must maintain a record book to log details of their animal and its care, including expenses, health records and amount and type of feed, to get them acclimated with the business aspect of raising animals. The books are submitted to the fair at the time the exhibitor arrives with his or her animal.

The exhibitors also learn to contact prospective buyers by writing letters and calling on them in person, asking them to support 4-H and come to the fair, and following up as the event approaches.

“They’ve been working on this all year. They got their animals in October and have been calling and writing buyers to invite them to the fair,” Suggs said. “They follow up with them with postcards, but etiquette tells them to invite them to the fair, not to buy their animal.”

“There are a lot of things these kids go through. Grooming competitions, showmanship, a skillathon, a verbal test to show what they know about their animals, the goats do agility show,” Fair manager Fran Crone said. “There’s so much that goes into that.”

In Creative Living, many of the local talent will take part in activities including quilt exhibits, master gardeners’ demonstrations, a butterfly demonstration by international expert Nick Boden and much more.

In 2014 the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair had 525 exhibitors showing in various categories. Including all the competitions, almost $40,000 was awarded in premiums, awards and scholarships.

As of Wednesday, there were 366 entries and 107 exhibitors.

Creative Living gives fairgoers a chance to get creative themselves. Guests will be able to make crafts for free and bring them home. There also will be the debut of the “Glue a Shoe” contest where people decorate a shoe, and a hay bale decorating contest with youth and adult divisions.

There’s still time to register to show off your own creative skills. All entries for the Creative Living Department will be accepted 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 21 and 22 at the Lee County Civic Center. Horticulture entries will be accepted Wednesday, Feb. 25, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Now in its 91st year, the fair that has been “making memories since 1924” runs through March 8, and is always an opportunity to experience thrilling rides, enjoy great food and be entertained by all kinds of performing acts.

Among the new attractions will be the Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean, the Banana Derby Monkey Jockeys, the Grizzly Experience, Trout fishing, youth talent competitions, Eudora Farms petting zoo and camel rides and more.

Don’t forget the special promotions such as Sneak Peak Thursday to kick things off, 12 Buck Tuesday for rides, Senior Day on Wednesday and $2 Thursdays, where admission and rides are $2.

A full schedule of activities, including promotions, as well as $2 off coupons for ride wristbands and single admissions for March 4 may be found on page 2B of today’s Breeze as well as on page 9 of The Lee County Shopper inside today’s paper.

Gates open at 5 p.m. during the week except on Wednesday, when they will open at noon as they will during Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 11. Parking is free.

The Lee Civic Center is at 11831 Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers.