PALMETTO -- Aglow with glittering rides, awash with gustatory delights, and animated by crowds strolling through, the Manatee County Fair on Friday marked the second day of this year's run.
Popular events included a dairy show, a grizzly bear, and a rockin' band called the Henningsens.
Christine Hine, 41, of Brandon, was dining al fresco just off the midway with her children, Brayden, 6, and Ashtin, 11, and a friend, Tim Martin, 52.
The children were excited about fair food and the rides and had arrived in time to see a relative show a calf during a dairy show.
They were probably glad they had come, because Hine's relative, Makayla McClain, 11, of Bradenton, snagged third place with her Holstein calf, Lulu,
during one part of the show.
"It was fun," said McClain afterward.
McClain said she was looking forward to dining along the midway as a way of celebrating her win.
Other winners in the same class included Alexis Chamness, first; David Noval, second; Nicole Lewis, fourth; and Katie Kirker, fifth.
The fair, in its 98th year, offered a wealth of games, rides, clowns, exhibits and animal-centered fun, such as the Grizzly Experience, where a live grizzly bear was the main attraction.
The high Friday was a crisp 57 degrees, but it was clear, calm and sunny.
That was an important consideration for Fair Manager Daniel West, who said the weather has a notable effect on the size of the crowd.
Good weather helped the fair to a record crowd of 172,000 during its 11-day run in 2012, he noted. He hoped this year's turnout would top that.
Today's forecast called for sunny skies, mostly clear, with a high of 56 degrees, and winds of 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 mph, said Rodney Wynn, a meteorologist at the Ruskin office of the National Weather Service.
The chill rendered hot food especially tempting, everything from crab fritters with horsey cold slaw ($7) to corn dogs ($3) and funnel cakes ($6).
A team lead by Ruth Mathews, the wife of Pastor Tad Mathews, of Palmetto's Church on the Rock, were serving homemade strawberry shortcake as a fundraiser.
She had ordered 40 flats of berries for the weekend, and a committee from the congregation sat behind her at a table, hulling berries.
"It bonds us," she explained. "We have lots of fellowship, and we have fun. When you're cutting berries, you can still talk."
The fair runs through Jan. 26 at 1402 14th Ave. W., Palmetto.
Today the Manatee County YMCA 5K run starts at 10:30 a.m. Fair gates will open at noon and will close at 10 p.m., but the midway remains open until midnight.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (55 and older), $5 for military and children 6-12, free for children younger than 6.
Information: 941-722-1639, manateecountyfair.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.