The history of the Florida State Fair spans 114 years

The Florida State Fair opened February 8th in Hillsborough County and runs through the 19th, and there are many attractions to see and rides to check out. Have you ever wondered how much today’s Florida State Fair compares to fairs of yesteryear? The 2018 fair is the 114th year the event has been held, and agriculture has been a part of the festivities since the beginning. Before you go, explore the history of the Florida State Fair below.

The Early Years of this South Florida Fair

The precursors to the Florida State Fair were first held in the 1890s by Tampa Bay Hotel owner Henry B. Plant to promote his hotel, according to an article in The Tampa Bay Times. Then, in 1904, Tampa Bay Hotel manager T.J. Laud-Brown revived the fair concept when he, city founders, and railroad officials put on what is considered the first-ever Florida State Fair.

The event—called the South Florida Fair—was held on 27 acres next to the Tampa Bay Hotel, at a site that is now home to the University of Tampa. According to the fair’s own website, the event included five races for betting and a building housing agricultural exhibits. The fair has continued every year since.

The Present-Day Fair and Agricultural Exhibits

The fair soon became known as the Florida State Mid-Winter Festival, and then, in 1915, it officially became known as The Florida State Fair. For decades, it even ran concurrently with the Gasparilla Carnival at various points, making the Tampa area the place to be. Agricultural exhibits like poultry and livestock shows were as much a part of the fair’s attractions as the rides, games, and fair foods.

In 1977, the fair was held at its current location at Interstate 4 and U.S Highway 301 in eastern Hillsborough County for the first time. The site boasts over 300 acres that include a music amphitheater, buildings and barns, and five acres dedicated to the Cracker Country living history museum. It’s a museum consisting of buildings and artifacts showing what life was like in Florida at the turn of the century. Created by Mildred W. and Doyle E. Carlton, Jr, the exhibit is open all year long and features homes, a general store, railroad depot, print shop, and the other usual staples that would have been a part of a Florida town in the early 1900s.

Agriculture is a major industry in Florida, and it’s a big part of the Florida State Fair. Agricultural exhibits and competitions are a mainstay of the fair every year, and a favorite attraction of many. AgAmerica supports agriculture in all its facets. Contact us to explore how our custom loan packages can help your agribusiness to grow and succeed.