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Fair opens with big weekend; continues through Sunday at the Lee Civic Center

By Staff | Feb 27, 2018

The 94th annual Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair kicked off with a bang this past weekend, drawing tens of thousands of spectators who were treated to great entertainment and even better weather.

Following a successful sneak peek on Thursday, the fair held its version of the early-bird special on Friday, where fairgoers got to get in free from 4 to 6 p.m., ride free from 5 to 6 p.m. and then, from 8 p.m. to 1 p.m., take part in the first of two “midnight madnesses,” which let attendees ride as many rides as they wish with the purchase of a $25 wristband.

Fran Crone, fair manager, said the opening day has grown every year.

“The sneak preview’s numbers were up from last year, with great weather. We are hoping for a great turnout with the great entertainment and promotions,” Crone said.

People were arriving early to make every minute count once the gates opened, and the front parking lot was filling up quickly. Since it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it was going to be later, when Moonlight Madness took place, there were no lines for rides or food, and if you wanted to see Dennis Lee sing, you got a front row seat.

While an early bird special is often associated with older attendees, young families with small children who had just gotten out of school and parents who wanted to give them something to do without breaking the bank attended in droves.

Merody Fredrickson, from Estero brought her three kids for the free admission and rides.

“We’ve been here four or five times for the opening. We’ll spend some money, get some food, but not on rides after the free zone,” Frederickson said. “They’ll get to see some shows and go to the barn.”

Callie Strom, also from Estero, did the same thing, not worrying about having to rush her two kids onto as many rides as possible.

“We let the kids go at their own pace. When they’re ready to go to the new ride, we go,” Strom said. “We’ll get some fair food and enjoy that. I like the funnel cakes.”

Attendees were also willing to spend money for an awesome time.

Moonlight Madness, which repeats Friday, drew people in as did the annual pre-opening “Mega-Pass” offering that also allows for unlimited rides.

Regular fair admission, which does not include rides, is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Besides the rides and entertainment, local 4-H youth took part in horse performance and beef breeding shows on Saturday, and a swine show on Sunday in the livestock arena.

In the civic center was the Creative Living section, as well as booths designed by 4-H and the area schools, as well as unique things such as a licorice man who sells his sweet stuff in dozens of flavors. He’ll even give you a taste.

The fair continues through Sunday.

Today, Wednesday, Feb. 28, is Senior and Military Day with $5 adult admissions from 2-5 p.m. Kiddie rides open at 2 p.m. with midway rides opening at 4 p.m. Ride wristbands are $20.

Thursday is old-fashion dollar day. Gates open at 4 p.m. with $5 adult admission and free admission for children under 11. Rides are $1 a ride with a minimum 10-ride purchase.

Moonlight Madness returns on Friday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Florida Agriculture Day is Saturday, featuring workshops; and a “last blast special” will wrap things up on Sunday.

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