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20 Tips for the Florida State Fair: A Guide To Saving Money and Spending Time Wisely

We've done some research for you in compiling a list of must-knows — and good-to-knows — for making the most of your time and dollars at the 2011 Florida State Fair.

As you would expect, there’s lots to spend money on at the Florida State Fair, but even more things to do that don’t require a dime above the admission price. Livestock and equestrian shows and competitions, for one thing; the Cracker Country living museum, for another. So before you spend your time and money at the fair, we offer some things to consider to map your day — and save your dollars. (Our source is the Florida State Fair Web site.) Here's a quick review:

  1. Save money on midway rides with “Power Hour” on Feb. 12 and Feb. 19, from 10 to 11 a.m. Also, Feb. 14 from noon to 1 p.m. During this hour, each ride costs only $1. (At other times, the normal ticket price is $1, with most rides requiring three- to-six tickets.) Some attractions and rides excluded.
  2. With the cost of admission, there are more than 100 free things to see and do at the fair, and they're listed online at the Florida State Fair Web site. The Hillsborough County School District noted in its report that more than 190,000 free tickets to the fair were distributed to its students for Student Fair Day on Feb. 11.
  3. Free activities related to the fair are available online for kids, including a Cracker Country activity book for children in grades 1 through 3, "A Look at Florida Then and Now," and an activity book for kids in grades 4 through 6, "Cracker Country's Frontier Children." Download a “fill- in the-blanks” activity sheet to fill in at the fair itself. Cracker Country, open year-round at certain times, is a living museum recreation of a Florida town set in the late 1890’s. Also online, a Cracker Country map and booklet on “Rural Florida Family Life, 1870-1912.” Open during Florida State Fair hours.
  4. Florida State Fair hours: Feb. 10, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Feb. 11-13, 9 a.m to 6 p.m.; Feb. 14-17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Feb. 21, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  5. The Florida State Fair is at the Florida State Fairgrounds at 4800 North U.S. Highway 301. Driving directions are online; so, too, a link to the HART bus schedule. Call the HART information line at 813-254-4278.
  6. The Florida State Fair Map highlights free shows, free exhibits, agribusiness and equestrian shows, Cracker Country and the Expo Area, among other highlights.
  7. Free exhibits: Ag Hall of Fame; Ag Venture; Cracker Country; arts and crafts, botanical and fine art competitions; Salute to Ag and Mooternity Ward; fish and wildlife conservation; Florida Sports Hall of Fame Legends Hall; and sand sculpture.
  8. Free shows: Giraffic Exotic Menagerie, International Stage, Sweetbay Entertainment Hall, Bluegrass Music Stage, Florida Arts & Craft Show, Nock Helicopter Trapeze Thrill Show, Circus Hollywood, Kachunga Alligator Show, Sea Lion Splash, Hollywood Racing Pigs, Welde Bears Show, Family Theater, Community Stage and Children's Stage.
  9. Free agribusiness and equestrian viewings: Goat & Sheep Tent, Small Animal Show Ring, Pure Bred Dog Tent, Ag Venture, Salute To Ag & Mooternity Ward, Equine Encounter, Equestrian Pavillion and Covered Ring Area.
  10. “Food on a stick and country music" — also known as “Corn Dogs & Country" — kicks off Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. Arrive early; the $20 cost buys an armband good for both the concert and fair admission. The concert, presented by WQYK at the Live Nation Entertainments’ 1-800 Ask Gary Amphitheatre (yes, it’s a mouthful)  is set to feature: Craig Morgan, Joe Nichols, Colt Ford, Sunny Sweeney and Brett Eldredge. (A portion of each ticket will be donated to the University of South Florida Tutor a Bull program, which links middle school students to college student tutors.)
  11. The Pepsi Armband Ticket costs $30 and is good for one day only — and only on Feb. 11, 13 or 21.
  12. Parking is free during Florida State Fair hours.
  13. Weekday gate admission costs $10 for adults and children (ages 12 and up) and $5 for children ages 6 to 11. Children under age 5 are admitted for free, for which a complimentary admission ticket is required (and available at the ticket window).
  14. Saturday and Sunday admission tickets cost $12, and $6 for children ages 6 to 11.
  15. Admission does not include the cost of special concerts, rides and games. And remember: Once you leave the fair, you cannot re-enter without buying another admission ticket.
  16. At the gate you can purchase a $5 Coupon Value Book that features more than $100 in savings on food, products and services sold by concessionaires and vendors. Show your Sam’s Club membership card on Feb. 19 and buy the book for $4. Call: 1-800-345-3247.
  17. Other highlights — Fireworks, Friday and Saturday nights; Elvis Extravaganza Impersonator Finals, Feb. 12 and 13, at 3 and 6 p.m.
  18. The fair for more than 100 years has hosted competitions for Floridians to showcase livestock, produce, crafts and artistic creations. Competitions this year include: antique display, food preservation, fine art, china painting, photography, sewing, scale models, decorative art, fine handcrafted furniture, woodcarving, woodturning, horticulture, high school art, youth international cooking and international wine and grape juice. View these entries for free.
  19. Coming up — Feb. 16: The Leroy Van Dyke Gold Tour, noon and 4 p.m., featuring 2 and 4 p.m., Leroy Van Dyke, Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, Moe Bandy, Joe Stampley and Bobby Bare. Cost: $10.
  20. Coming up — Feb. 18 and 19: Mixed Martial Arts Show. Tickets start at $30, plus fees, and include fair admission and parking. 

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