Cowboys, clowns and kids were excited for the same reason Thursday night.
The fair is back in Manatee County.
The 2018 Manatee County Fair is now open, and hundreds came to see what the fair has to offer this year.
Of course, one of the main draws is the food — and there were no disappointments. Annual staples such as Peachey’s Baking Co. and the Cattlemen & Cattlewomen burger booth were in attendance. Their long lines made their status as the most-wanted fair foods well known.
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Jim Parks has been a part of Cattlemen for as long as he can remember, he said. He added that their burgers are the best and the reason is simple.
“It’s just good beef,” Parks said. “It’s cooked well and given the care that only cattle people can give it. What can I say? It’s our bread and butter.”
The folks at Peachey’s Baking Co. were less inclined to say exactly why customers waited 20 minutes to get a bite of their confections, though it probably has something to do with grandma’s secret recipe.
“It’s an old family recipe that our grandma used to make for us when we were kids, so we try to keep basically the same recipe and ingredients,” co-owner Sam Peachey said.
Their pretzels and doughnuts are handmade at the booth all night long to provide customers with the freshest pastries possible.
Peachey stood at the booth kneading white lumps of dough into circles and twists to create his beloved doughnuts and pretzels. He said they’re lucky to be in such a popular location at the fair, which helped to build up their clientele over the last few years.
“We’ve been in the area and participating in farmer’s markets for seven or eight years. We’ve got a little bit of a following in the area.”
Peachey went on to say that he’s a follower of the fair. His baking business participates in about 20 fairs a year, but the Manatee County Fair is his favorite.
Other booths provided the rest of what you’d expect to find on the Manatee River fairgrounds during this time of year: corn dogs, funnel cakes and deep-fried everything.
Events for the crowd were ready to go on Day 1, as well. Fairgoers watched a dog show, pig races and interacted in remote-control car races. There are so many options for entertainment that children will have trouble deciding which of the attractions to interact with. There are trampolines, bumper boats and pony rides.
But what makes the fair special for most people is the opportunity to come back and see tons of familiar faces year after year.
“It’s a reunion. It’s an annual reunion,” Parks said. “You see people here that you don’t see all year.”
The Manatee County Fair runs through Jan. 21.
IF YOU GO
What: The 102nd Manatee County Fair
When: Runs through Sunday, Jan. 21
Hours: Varies, but can be found on ManateeCountyFair.com.
Where: 1303 17th St. W., Palmetto
Admission: Ages 13 and up: $8; Seniors 55 and up: $7; Military with Active Status ID: $5; Children ages 6 to 12: $5; Children ages 5 and under: free. Information on special pricing days and armband specials are available on ManateeCountyFair.com.