BRADENTON -- For most folks, the first time they think of the Manatee County Fair is when it rolls around every mid-January.
Not Ellen Meade.
The 10-day event’s got her attention three months before carnies start building the rides at the Manatee County Fairgrounds.
It’s natural for Meade, now in her 25th year as producer and director of the Miss Manatee County Fair Pageant.
“I have to start working on it in October,” she said. “Ordering crowns, trophies, banners, lining up the judges.”
The fruits of her labor will be borne out Saturday at the 2012 Miss Manatee County Fair Pageant at Braden River High School’s auditorium. Sixty contestants will vie in four age categories:
n Mini Miss, 7 to 9.
n Little Miss, 10 to 12.
n Junior Miss, 13 to 15.
n Miss, 16 to 21.
“What I really enjoy is I get to watch these girls grow up to become young ladies and sophisticated young women,” Meade said. “I get to watch them develop their personalities and social skills, see them go into college and other pageants.”
The Mini Miss and Little Miss candidates will do an interview and onstage walk. So will the Junior Miss and Miss candidates, in addition to a gown competition. Miss candidates will also vie in business attire and public speaking.
The four division winners will help officials cut the ribbon to open the fair Jan. 12, help hand out awards at the fair and make appearances in the community throughout the year.
“The girls who are in it for the first time will have a good case of butterflies, but the ones in it before are much more relaxed because they know what to expect,” Meade said. “That’s just the nature of the event, but a lot of girls enjoy it and come back.”
Each division winner will receive a one-year dance scholarship to Ellen Meade Studios, flowers from Scarletts Flowers and a crown and banner.
The winner of the Miss division also will receive a $1,000 college scholarship from Manatee Memorial Hospital and Manatee River Fair Association.
The Miss Manatee County Fair Pageant has awarded over $30,000 in college scholarships to the Miss division winners.
Among other events taking place this weekend are:
n The South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W., presents a “Mermaids at the Museum” Family Night 4-8 p.m. Saturday. Families can enjoy the family-friendly film “Aquamarine” in the Bishop Planetarium Theater at 4:15 p.m. and meet a “real” live mermaid after the show.
Children can create mermaid landscapes with tinfoil, shells and watercolors and participate in a number of other crafts and activities in the planetarium lobby.
n Suncoast Antique Bottle Collectors hold their 43rd annual Antique Bottle and Tabletop Collectible Show & Sale 4-7:45 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Manatee Civic Center.
The $15 admission is good for both days. Saturday’s general admission is $4.
n World Peace Day celebration, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 3975 Fruitville Road, Sarasota.
Sponsored by the South West Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, the event includes a free continental breakfast, discussion of Latino issues, presentation of the annual Duisberg Peace Award and a panel discussion.
n Farmer’s Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday on Bradenton’s Old Main Street.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.