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Girls and chickens

Traditional Fun a Staple of County Fair

The annual spectacle comes to eastern Hillsborough this month

The Hillsborough County Fair focuses on youth agricultural programs, competitions, and down-home fun.

Hundreds of volunteers are working with animals, plants, and exhibits to get ready for the annual affair, which this year takes place on two extended weekends: Oct. 18-21 and Oct. 25-28. Advanced, discounted tickets are available through Wednesday, Oct. 10.

This year's theme: Good Times & Country Rhymes

There are livestock shows featuring sheep, cows, goats, and chickens, as well as a milking contest, a swine show, and grooming events, among other animal shows and displays. Special events include a rodeo, a truck and tractor pull, a horse show, and a demolition derby.

There are competitions galore. Among them: hay bale decorating, cooking, recycled yard art, wheelbarrow decorating, and arts and crafts.

The fairgrounds is on land owned by Hillsborough County at the corner of State Road 60 and Sydney Washer Road, east of the Brandon/Valrico area. It hosts activities throughout the year.

The fair has grown every year since 2008, when it moved to the current site, a former phosphate mining operation. Last year more than 25,000 people attended the eight-day event.

There's an exhibition hall with indoor and outdoor space for livestock shows, horticulture displays, and arts and crafts booths; an arena and grandstand for events such as bull-riding, barrel racing, and the demolition derby; a barn-like structure for staging shows, and the historic village with old-fashioned farm equipment and a general store. There's also a midway with rides.

Hillsborough County's Board of County Commissioners recently backed the fair's request for a state grant to pay for expansion of the exhibition hall, which now can accommodate more covered shows and displays.

"Every fair has a purpose, a theme, a chemistry," says Tom Umiker, the fair's longtime manager.

Photo: Youngsters and the animals they raise are popular attractions at the Hillsborough County Fair.

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