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Fair opens with Sneak Peek; continues through March 8

By Staff | Feb 27, 2015

The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair gave visitors a sneak peak of what will be on store for them over the next 10 days.

The fair opened its doors late Thursday afternoon for the specially priced, $15 “Sneak Peek,” which included admission and rides.

“Things are going wonderful so far,” said Fran Crone, fair manager shortly before the gates opened. “We’re still getting set up and everything is falling into place.

“Things are going great and we’re hoping that the weather is good to us.”

Rain was predicted Thursday afternoon and skies were cloudy.

As the 5 p.m. start time drew near, workers were getting the finishing touches done, making sure the rides were in safe, working order, while vendors warmed up their fryers and did their last-minute prep work.

“Everything is running OK, all the rides are running OK,” said John Roberts, a tugboat ride operator. “If I were a kid, I’d be out here having fun.”

Among the children who turned out for the Sneak Peek was Sydney Strom, 9.

” We wanted to go to the fair as a family,” said Sydney, who was there her mom and three siblings. “I’m going to ride the rides and have funnel cake.”

Thursday usually serves as a trial run to get any kinks out.

For those who missed out, there will be ample opportunity to take advantage of all the food, fun and excitement, as well as special promotions. More than 101,000 people turned out for last year’s fair, which was a record.

The gates will open tonight for a busy evening at 5 p.m., with free admission and rides until 6 p.m. Regular admission of $8 for adults and $5 for children then applies until the start of Moonlight Madness at 9 p.m., when admission is $25 and includes unlimited rides until 2 a.m.

There will also be special promotional days throughout the week. Monday is always Harry Chapin Food Bank Night. Starting at 5 p.m. three canned food items cover your admission. Without a donation, regular admission applies, but will be re-donated to the food bank to help feed the hungry.

Tuesday is $12 Buck Tuesday with gates opening at 5 p.m.

On Wednesday, the fair will hold its Seniors/Veterans Day from noon to 6 p.m. With a $5 admission ($3 with a printable coupon), they get a lineup of entertainment including two performances from Joey Dee and the Starliters.

Health screenings and information booths from health care providers, the VA, and more will also be available inside the civic center.

Something else new this year is $2 Thursday – $2 gate admission and $2 per ride.

Lots of great community exhibits can be found in the Creative Living Department, including quilt exhibits, Master Gardeners’ demonstrations, a butterfly demonstration and exhibit by international expert Nick Boden and more.

New this year at the fair, guests will be able to make free crafts at the “Make & Take Tables” and bring them home. There are new categories such as the Glue a Shoe and hay bale decorating contests.

Livestock is always a huge component of any fair.

More than 300 students and 4-H members will show off their swine, rabbits, chickens and horses, and learn everything from record keeping to showing and grooming.

Free entertainment includes the Eudora Petting Zoo, containing more than 40 animals, 15 of which are rare and exotic. The Grizzly Experience brings visitors up close to a 700-pound grizzly bear named Tonk and cubs, Yogi and Boo Boo, and new this year is the Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean, a high wire act, and the Banana Derby.

Thrill seekers will love old time favorites as well as some new exciting rides, as well as chow down on favorite carnival fare such as corn dogs, funnel cakes and turkey legs.

A printable brochure detailing special events and the fair schedule is available at swflcfair.com and contains coupons to save on admission and rides on select days.

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