PALMETTO -- With the more than 50 rides assembled, vendors ready to dish out fair food and livestock ready to strut, the Manatee County Fair begins Thursday.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the fair gates will open, marking the beginning of the "Fair of the Century" and 100 years of fair in Manatee County.
During this year's fair, which runs through Jan. 24, there will be a midway full of rides, more than 500 livestock and the usual events, including the cheerleading competition, baby contest and fair queens pageant. There are also new events, including a pie-eating contest, corndog-eating contest and hog-calling contest.
Dan West, manager of the Manatee County Fair, said people should come to this year's fair because it is historically significant.
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"We are going to move into the second 100 years," West said.
The Manatee County Fair is a "family oriented event," which is something fair organizers want it to remain as, West said.
"We want everyone to have a wonderful time," he said. "We want people to come here and have a wonderful time with family. We want people to come out and make memories with kids."
Highlights of the Opening Night Celebration include the swine show at 6 p.m. in the Mosaic Arena and the Bellamy Brothers performing at 7:30 p.m. on the Medallion Home Main Stage.
With rides, shows, vendors and other entertainment at this year's fair, organizers say there is something for everyone. But with so much taking place during the 11-day fair, Jon Neuhauser, president of the Manatee River Fair Association, shares his 10 must do's at the fair.
1. "Must stroll through the Arts and Crafts Exhibits located in Chaires Building. View the wide variety of creative exhibits showcasing the artistic talents found within our community. Must attend the various crafting demonstrations held each day."
2. "Must visit the Exhibit Building and learn about a wide variety of local businesses and community services. Be sure to see the Fair Association's replica of an old time country store located at the south end of the building. View the many turn of the century artifacts and take advantage of the many 100 Year mementos and giveaways."
3. "Must compete in an old-time hog -calling contest (1:30 p.m. Saturday), corndog-eating contest (1:30 p.m. Monday) and pie-eating contest (12:30 p.m. Jan. 23) all sponsored by the fair's 100 Year Committee. Sign up at least 30 minutes prior to start."
4. "Must attend at least one of the many livestock shows available or attend the swine and steer auctions held the first and second Saturdays respectively."
5. "Must look for the T-Rex strolling the grounds."
6. "Must watch your child's face as they explore the many animal attractions located throughout the grounds. Must see the sea lions and racing pigs."
7. "Must try a Cattlemen's Bacon-Cheeseburger, a Kiwanis Corn Dog, Church on the Rock's Strawberry Shortcake or if you dare, a deep-fried Twinkie."
8. "Must attend the many musical concerts being held throughout the 11-day celebration."
9. "Must experience the many exciting midway rides. Be sure to check out the Double Ferris Wheel."
10. "Must tell a friend what a great time you had at Manatee County's 2016 Fair of the Century."
For more information about the fair and a complete schedule of events, visit manateecountyfair.com.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.