The Manatee County Fair is finished for the year, but if you didn’t get your fill of fair fun, there’s plenty more coming.
It’s up the road a bit, though. The Florida State Fair opens Thursday at the fairgrounds in Tampa, about an hour’s drive from Bradenton straight up U.S. 301. It’s the 113th annual edition of the state fair, and it runs through Feb. 20.
If you’ve been to the Manatee County Fair, you pretty much know what to expect from the Florida State Fair — agricultural and livestock shows, midway rides, live music and lots of food that tastes amazing, but isn’t very good for you. The only real difference is the state fair’s a lot bigger than our county fair.
And the artists providing the live music tend to be more widely known than the ones who performed at the Manatee County Fair. Almost all the concerts are free with admission to the festival.
Among the highlights of this year’s entertainment lineup is the Roots & Boots Tour, which features the all-star lineup of Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippen and Collin Raye.
Kershaw has long been one of country music’s most definitive voices, with a string of hits ranging from the rowdy “Cadillac Style” to the romantic “Love of My Life.” His newest disc, “The Blues Got Me,” pays homage to the blues, a genre that Kershaw says always has been among his musical influences. Kershaw is joined by Raye, whose soulful delivery has set country standards, and Tippen, who marked his silver anniversary as a recording artist in 2016. That show is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 20.
Young Shalyah Fearing, who lives in Hudson, was on “The Voice” in 2015 and made it all the way to the semifinals. With her powerhouse voice and penchant for R&B, she drew comparisons to Beyonce. She performs at 8 p.m. Friday.
Christian rock band Building 429 hails from North Carolina. The band was named the New Artist of the year in 2005 by the Gospel Music Association. They’ll play at 6 p.m. Feb. 19.
The only concerts that you’ll have to pay extra for are the Country Gold Tour shows, but if you’re a classic country music fan you probably won’t mind shelling out a few bucks. Johnny Lee, David Frizzell and Barbara Fairchild perform at 2 p.m. Tuesday and Bobby Bare, the Gatlin Brothers and Marty Haggard (son of the legendary Merle Haggard) play at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Leroy Van Dyke of “Auctioneer” and “Walk on By” fame will perform at both shows. Tickets to the Country Gold Tour shows are $10 for general admission and $20 for reserved floor seating. Call 813-740-4640 for tickets. (Tickets do not include fair admission).
There’s lots more live music at the fair, including multiple daily show from Dennis Lee, who’s been a staple at fairs in Florida for decades.
The Country Gold Tour is always a fair favorite, and this year’s lineup includes Johnny Lee, David Frizzell and Barbara Fairchild at 2 p.m. Tuesday and Bobby Bare, the Gatlin Brothers and Marty Haggard (son of the Merle Haggard) at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
And if music isn’t to your tastes, the 2017 Florida State fair also features some new food-oriented attractions, including Sweet: A Tasty Journey, an interactive exhibit utilizes a blend of traditional and modern educational techniques to explore candy’s history and role in popular culture, a giant Candyland game and candy-inspired artwork, including amazing replicas of famous paintings like the Mona Lisa, created with jellybeans.
Details: Feb. 9-20, Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301, Tampa. $11 Monday through Thursday at gate, $13 Friday, Saturday and Sunday at gate; child (6-11) $5 in advance, $6 Monday through Thursday at gate, $7 Friday, Saturday and Sunday at gate; Senior (55+) $7 in advance, $9 at gate on February 13-17. 800-345-3247, floridastatefair.com.