Manatee County Fair season is here once more. Can’t you just smell that funnel cake?
This local tradition has been going strong for more than a hundred years; the first Manatee County Fair was held in 1916, and it’s been a favorite ever since.
The 2019 fair kicks off on Thursday at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto and offers 11 days of wholesome and affordable family fun.
The fairground will have rides, arts and crafts, agriculture exhibits, entertainment, food and more.
In fact, there’s so much to do that it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead.
Here are five don’t-miss attractions at the 2019 Manatee County Fair.
If you go, share pictures of your visit on social media using the hashtag “ManateeCountyFair19.”
The Manatee County Fair is packed with entertainment options, from strolling acts to comedians and storytellers.
It also attracts some major musical talent.
This year, featured performances include country act Mark Wills, contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Josh Wilson, bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent and local 1960s tribute band Yesterdayze.
Seats for shows at the fair are first-come, first-served, so get to the entertainment tent early if you don’t want to miss out.
Main stage entertainment:
▪ Mark Wills, Friday, at 7:30 p.m.
▪ Josh Wilson, Sunday, at 7 p.m.
▪ 301 Travelers, Jan. 22, at 7:30 p.m.
▪ “Brothers Everly” Tribute Band, Jan. 23, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
▪ Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m.
▪ Yesterdayze, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
See a full list of entertainment options at manateecountyfair.com/events.
Nothing says “welcome to the fair” like a heaping helping of a fried or otherwise indulgent snack.
Funnel cake, elephant ears, strawberry shortcake and ice cream will all be there, plus savory eats such as barbecue and corn dogs.
Speaking of corn dogs, the fourth annual corn dog eating contest will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Chaires Building on the fairgrounds.
The fair will also host its first doughnut eating contest at 4 p.m. on Jan. 26.
The 12th annual charity barbecue competition is the same day; it begins at noon with judging at 4 p.m. and awards at 5 p.m.
Whatever you plan on eating at the fair, we recommend not wearing your favorite shirt.
Animals, animals everywhere
The Manatee County Fair is an ideal place to see lots and lots (and lots) of cute animals.
There are racing pigs, prize rabbits, a petting zoo, and oh yes, there’s even a goat show.
A new addition this year is the first doggy pageant; it will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the entertainment tent.
The Mosaic Arena is a good place to catch some old-timey farm fun, including livestock competitions and auctioneer sales.
If the thought of your bovine buddies becoming burgers makes you squeamish, avoid the area.
Arts, crafts and lots to buy
The arts and crafts exhibits in the Chaires Building are part of what distinguishes the county fair from a normal amusement park.
See art, photos, needlework, foods and more created by local kids and adults and find out who took home top prizes.
As always, there will be vendors selling all kinds of goodies.
And for one night only, the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association will host a youth plant sale. It starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Last but not least, it’s the attraction all of the kids have been waiting for — the midway.
Prepare to twirl and whirl as your vision swirls (we hope you don’t hurl) on rides that take a hundred different approaches to making you giddy and dizzy.
Armband specials that allow you to ride all night are available on select dates and range from $15 to $25.
Parents: Take your motion sickness pills.
We’ll see you at the fair.
Details: Thursday-Jan. 27. Manatee County Fairgrounds, 1402 14th Ave. W., Palmetto. Kids 5 and under: Free; kids ages 6-12: $6; ages 13 and up: $9; active military with I.D.: $6; ages 55 and up: $8.