Where else can you find dinosaurs on parade, 57 flavors of funnel cake, and amusement rides that make your eyes pop out of your head?
Oh, and where there’s an agricultural show that offers the strangest looking chickens, cutest lambs and goats, and healthiest pigs and steers this side of Abilene. And crafts that sparkle. And student artwork that stops you in your tracks.
Why, the Charlotte County Fair, of course. Celebrating its 30th year, the fair opens Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 10 at the Charlotte County Fairgrounds, 2333 El Jobean Road in Port Charlotte. Times and ticket prices vary. Parking is $5. Promotions and special deals are traditional fair offerings.
The agricultural program is the backbone of the fair, and this year it features 230 animals being shown by 120 kids up to 18 years old who are in the Charlotte County 4H Club or the Future Farmers of America, or both.
“The main thing that drives the fair is agriculture,” said John Mahshie, treasurer of the Charlotte County Fair Association, which sponsors the fair and other events year-round. “We are an agricultural county fair chartered by the state of Florida. We have to have animals. That’s why we’re not a carnival or something like that.”
The agricultural program features soft bunnies, colorful chickens and roosters, lambs, goats, well-fed hogs and sturdy steers, all raised by kids who hail from Charlotte or DeSoto counties.
Food is also a fan favorite, and this year the fair again will feature food devoid of all nutritional value that is nevertheless yummy and fun to eat. When you eat at the fair, your nutritionist will hate you, but your dentist will love you.
There are, of course, traditional hot dogs and hamburgers and French fries, beef tips, ice cream popcorn and cotton candy. And while 57 flavors may not actually be available, there is plenty of variety on the funnel cake menu.
This year, more than 21 food vendors will line the midway. African food will make its fair debut, and a big bus full of Greek food will entice lovers of baklava. In addition, “some fancy macaroni and cheese thing” will be part of the fair’s fare, said Kam Mahshie, fair general manager and John’s brother.
The midway is not about food alone. It’s also about the vendors of dry goods, who provide the fair character and a Casbah feel. It’s about getting a Henna tattoo, buying inappropriate clothes, getting your face painted.
There’s always weird stuff, too.
Vendors will line more than 300 feet of the fair’s main drag this year.
Rides, of course, are a big reason why people come to the fair. It’s fair tradition, Mahshie said, that the rides are a surprise. But you can count on merry-go-rounds and slides for the younger ones, and big, fast, stomach-churning rides for teenagers and adults who think they still are teenagers.
The shows this year include a magician, an aquatic acrobatics act, amazing birds and something called the Jurassic Kingdome Dinosaur Show. T-Rex most certainly will make an appearance.
The attractions help make the Charlotte County Fair unique. Nowhere else can you find a hot dog and a dinosaur sharing the same midway.
Proceeds from all the events sponsored by the association — including the fair — go to fund scholarships in agriculture, art and music for Charlotte County students.