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Lee County Fair gets under way

By Staff | Feb 28, 2019

The 95th Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair at the Lee Civic Center kicks into high gear today, but some fairgoers got an early look Thursday at “sneak peek.”

Sneak Peek Thursday was instituted several years ago to serve as both an extra day to the traditional 10-day fair schedule as well as a chance to iron out any kinks.

“It gives people a chance to see that the fair is here and ready to go; some people think that things aren’t ready yet but we are,” said Mike Peak, president of the Southwest Florida Lee County Fair board. “Also if we have to make adjustments we can.”

For $15, people got to get in a day ahead of time and ride all the rides on what usually is the least busy day of the historic fair that annually attracts more than 100,000 total attendees.

For those who don’t like to wait very long for rides, food and attractions, that’s a very big plus – as was the special price.

“It’s cheaper to come today and they’ve been talking about it since they started setting up,” said Lauren Lacy, of North Fort Myers who came with her two children and ex-husband because the kids had been pleading with them to go.

The first Friday is when the fair really starts happening, with free gate admission from 4 to 6 p.m. and free rides from 5 to 6 p.m. offered tonight.

The first of two Friday Moonlight Madness promotions will run from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., with $25 wristbands for admission and rides.

But the fair is much more than a rides carnival.

There will be lots of live entertainment, including Billy Lindsey with his tribute to Elvis, Ron Diamond the hypnotist and magician, the Sea Lion Splash, Lady Houdini, Matt’s Family Jam and Renata, the Fritzy Brothers One Man Circus and much more.

“Lady Houdini does the water cell escape like Houdini did and has done about 2,300 escapes, which is more than what Houdini did,” said fair organizer Fran Crone in an earier interview.

“The strolling shows will also be able to perform on stage at Whaley Hall, which served as the beer tent in the past.”

Inside the civic center, there also will be ongoing entertainment from area talent, with the fair’s beauty contest on Saturday and talent competition on Sunday. School dance clubs and choruses will also take the stage throughout the fair.

The school and 4-H booth competitions will also be in the civic center. More than 55 schools will participate this year. Creative Living, with all the art exhibits from local talent, as well as local vendors will also be staged there. Children will also get a chance to play games and get off their feet for a while.

The heartbeat of any fair, though, is its livestock shows, put on by the area 4-H clubs. The first weekend will feature the always important swine show on Sunday, with showmanship shows for steer, rabbits, chickens and other animals in the livestock show ring, as well as horsemanship shows in the horse arena.

“We’re an agricultural fair, so the animals are truly the fair. There are livestock shows throughout the week and all sorts of things,” Crone said.

Activities on Saturdays and Sundays start at 11 a.m., with Last Blast specials the final day of the fair, which wraps up Sunday, March 10.

All next week, there will be special promotions.

Monday is Harry Chapin Food Bank Night, with free admission with three cans of food. There also will be 12 Buck Tuesday where, after paid admission, ride wristbands will be $12.

Wednesday is Senior/ Military Day with a special 2 p.m. opening and $5 admission until 5 p.m. Pauly & the Goodfellas will perform.

Thursday is Old-Fashioned Dollar Day, where rides are $1 with a minimum $10 of ride purchases.

With the exception of Wednesday and the weekend, opening time is 4 p.m.

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

Visit swflcfair.com for full schedules and additional information.