The wind picked up, but the rain held off Sunday and allowed the 101st Manatee County Fair to run the table weather-wise for 2017, said fair manager Dan West.
“No one can remember the last time we had 10 days of beautiful weather,” West said. “The good Lord blessed us with perfect weather. Even here on the last day it’s a little blustery but we still have a pretty good crowd.”
Although the numbers from Sunday’s attendance won’t be tabulated until Monday, West said that the 2017 Fair at the Palmetto Fair Grounds was running neck and neck with the 2012 Fair for all-time record attendance.
In 2012, the Fair recorded more than 172,000 visitors, the all-time record, West added.
“We know it is going to come down to the wire so we will have to see what Sunday has brought us and see if we have a new record on our hands,” West said.
Asked what acts got the most positive fan feedback this year, West first mentioned Rock-It the Robot.
“He’s the Pied Piper of the Midway,” West said of the tall talking robot. “We had a wonderful concert with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder on the first Friday night. The tent was just over-filled with folks.”
“We always love the youth lifestock shows because we like to see what the young people are doing, raising those projects,” West added. “And having the culmination right here at the Fair, we love that. The Fair has so many aspects we hold close to our hearts. The Fair just had a great run this year.”
The Bears of Bearadise Ranch were also popular, West said.
“We had gone several years without a bear show,” West said. “They had a great response for their show here.”
Agri-Puppets, which teach children agriculture, was a hit this year as well as the Firefighter Training Show, West added.
“Kids also loved seeing the animals up close at the petting zoo,” West said.
Country Darlin’s have strollin’ down to an art
Around the last hour on Sunday, a blazing rendition of “Rocky Top” was coming from three young ladies wearing cowboy hats and boots and equipped with a fiddle, guitar and banjo.
The three young women were the Polk County-based strolling group, America’s Country Darlin’, which made its third ever Manatee County Fair appearance this year.
The group, which is popular on the fair circuit, is led by fiddler Sally Ann, but also includes Sally Ann’s sister, Sadie May, on banjo and Sadie May’s daughter, Sarah Jane, on guitar.
“We stroll the fairgrounds, bringing good old country and bluegrass music to fine folks,” Sally Ann said.
Sally Ann, who said she has been performing since 1981, said the women are part of a seven-generation family called the Chewnings which settled in the southwest corner of Polk County in the late 1800s in a tiny rural community now called Chewningville.
A look at a Polk County map didn’t reveal any such place, but the women said it is truly there.
“There’s 50 people there now, 18 horses and 403 cats,” Sally Ann said.
As West always says, there is always something new to learn at the Fair.