Title: Beyond the Midway: Florida's Fairs and Livestock Shows
Bright lights, exciting rides, festive music and delicious food
For over a century Florida's fairs and livestock shows have provided affordable entertainment for the whole family.
Each year, in counties throughout the state, these local and regional events provide an opportunity for families to step out of their daily routine and enter an exciting spectacle of sights and sounds.
Along with this fun and excitement, there's another side to these annual festivals.
As more and more Floridians are discovering, there's more allure just beyond the midway.
For many boys and girls all across Florida, youth programs like 4‑H and FFA provide a wide variety of learning opportunities.
They learn skills that can't be found in textbooks, where the hands‑on approach to learning helps them develop talents that will last a lifetime.
For months these young people work after school and on weekends to get ready for the fair.
Through their daily chores of feeding, grooming and washing the livestock, they learn about responsibility and what it means to care for another living creature.
By constantly practicing the routine of showing livestock, these youngsters gain confidence and poise. And, by passing their knowledge along to others, they develop the leadership skills that will serve them as they grow.
For these young people the culmination of months of hard work, preparation and practice is the thrill of "showing at the fair."
And while only a few will receive the prestigious ribbons and awards, all those who participate will have earned valuable experience.
The exhibitions and shows aren't limited to livestock. Fairs also highlight the activities of other youth groups by offering competitions in fine arts, scientific and robotic projects, as well as creative arts and competitive skills like chess. These competitions provide boys and girls from rural and urban settings a forum to display their work.
At the fair, youth are able to earn recognition for their efforts, and local folks have the opportunity to see the best their community has to offer.
Agriculture is vital to Florida's economy, providing jobs, food, and revenue for our state. There's no better venue for demonstrating the importance of Florida agriculture than local fairs and livestock shows.
Area farmers and businessmen can show off their products to fairgoers. They give the public a taste of our rich agricultural heritage, let them see a side of Florida they may never have experienced, and inspire the next generation of young people to carry on this important work.
And while fairs showcase the future of farming, they also house living examples of Florida's unique history. Through exhibits, displays, and re‑enactments, fairgoers can experience the frontier life of Florida's early settlers. From blacksmithing to woodcarving, caning chairs to making molasses, visitors get a glimpse of what it took to be a pioneer in the Sunshine State.
While each fair is only open for a couple of weeks, the fairgrounds play an important role in the community throughout the year.
In the event of an emergency, fairgrounds can be utilized as hurricane shelters, evacuation centers, livestock boarding facilities, and staging areas for disaster relief efforts. As a public service, fairgrounds can be used by schools, charities and other non‑profit groups to raise funds and awareness for their programs, providing one more link in the network between Fairs and local communities.
The true value of Florida's fairs can be found far beyond the midway.
It's found in the young people who learn about and share the lessons of responsibility.
It's seen in the faces of folks who experience for the first time what it took to settle the wilderness
And it can be felt by those who seek shelter when disaster strikes.
So the next time you're dazzled by the delicious aroma of the food, or the sights and sounds of the midway, remember,
Florida Fairs are more than just fun. They're part of the unique fabric of the communities that make up our great state.