PALMETTO — There were fast-paced rides, groomed livestock, entertaining circus performers and fried food.
On Thursday, the Manatee County Fair kicked off for the 93rd year.
“This is the place where everyone comes to see everyone they haven’t seen in a year. It’s kind of like a homecoming,” said Dan West, fair manager, noting that this year’s theme is Planting Memories. “You’re always going to see people you know.”
Raymond and Tina Trice of Bradenton stood and watched the Sarasota-based circus act, Nerveless Nocks Thrill Circus, perform tricks on towers of stacked chairs.
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“We’re just excited. We look forward to this every year,” said Tina Trice, standing with her husband. The couple has been coming to the fair 15 years.
“We thought we would come the first night and beat the crowd, said Raymond Trice. “I think it’s getting to know the community. You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”
For the Trices, the fair also means checking out the exhibits and indulging in fair food.
“I like to see what people display. There’s a sense of pride in that. It lets you know what Manatee County has to offer,” he said.
Then there’s the elephant ears, pizza, corn on the cob and the list goes on.
“Don’t forget about the food. I’m going to get corn dogs and candy apples. I’m going to line it up,” said Tina Trice smiling.
Despite the cooler temperatures, West said he doesn’t think that will keep people away.
“I know it’s going to be chilly, but the food tastes so much better in the cold weather,” West said.
Last year, there were as many as 138,000 people who attended the fair. In 2006, the record was set at 155,000 people attending.
Bill and Denise Cothron of Bradenton brought their extended family this year. The couple has been attending the fair since 1979 when they moved here from Indiana.
“This is the reason we come every year,” said Bill Cothron, joking as he pointed his spoon at a bowl of strawberry shortcake.
The family has a tradition of coming to the fair in the evening.
“We wear jackets and hats and we always come out at night to see the lights. It’s opening night at the fair,” said Denise Cothron, watching her 3-year-old great niece pick up a pair of green maracas and begin playing with Ed and Geraldine’s Old Time Music.
“You create memories coming here from year to year from one generation to the next,” she said.