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2016 Fair Trip Wrap Up

Minnesota State Fair Visit 2016
Largest Fair Trip EVER!
Aug 25- Aug 28
by
Sandee Parke-Sytsma, Florida Strawberry Festival

I want to start by saying we got sad news the day before we left that Executive Director, Lisa Hinton, wouldn’t be attending due to her Mom’s health. We understood completely but surely missed her leadership and smiling face.

Attendees:
PENSACOLA INTERSTATE FAIR, Felecia & John Chivington
OSCEOLA COUNTY FAIR, Dawn Rowe
FLORIDA STATE FAIR, Cheryl & Eddie Flood
FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL, Ellany Johnson, Dan & Pam Walden, Sandee Sytsma
COLLIER COUNTY FAIR, Rhonda & Bodie Ward, Pat Cookson, Kathy Presley, Mike & Elizabeth Jones
SOUTH FLORIDA FAIR, Jeaneen Stephens, Rita DeMier
PASCO COUNTY FAIR, Clark Converse
HARDEE COUNTY FAIR, Terry Atchley
MIAMI DADE COUNTY FAIR & EXPO, Albert Montes
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA & LEE COUNTY FAIR, Mike and Laurie Peak, Frank and Cindy Sherkus

This was my first Fair Trip with the Florida Federation and Lisa wanted the view point of a ‘newbie.” I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend the experience. There was obviously a lot of preplanning because everything ran smoothly. Our home away from home was The Commons Hotel which was gorgeous and located adjacent to the beautiful University of Minnesota campus. The lobby had a huge round fireplace with seating all around and bookshelves lined the walls. We Floridians are more accustomed to lobbies with large aquariums filled with colorful fish and some conch shells. The mid-west culture was a delightful change of pace for us.

Our arrival day was also the opening day of the fair. A get together was planned on the fairgrounds at 6pm for the Florida Federation. We met with General Manager, Jerry Hammer, got hugs, said hello and went our merry way to start this new adventure. We met as a group 2 other times, lunch on Friday at the Administration Building where we were treated royally and Jerry gave a lot of info and again Friday night at an Italian restaurant. We shared our day’s experiences and got to know each other better. With a group our size it would have been impossible to stay together at the fair.

Mind blowing, that’s the first words that comes to mind when I recap this trip. This was my first experience attending a LARGE fair and I was completely in awe at how smoothly it ran and how delightful Minnesotans are. We did our best to cover the 300 acre fair in 2 ½ days but it would be impossible to share all we saw and learned but I’ll give SOME random highlights and facts.

• There were people everywhere and Jerry told us it was a record setting opening day with 111,902 attending. The next day was also a record with 141,023. Last year’s total attendance was 1,779.738
• It’s a 12 day event, gates open 6am -12 midnight (vendors do all refilling between midnight & 6)
• There is a parade through the fair every day at 2pm
• There are many permanent buildings on the grounds including a bank.
• They have accommodations for all board members (& spouse) to live there during the fair. Many live hundreds of miles away so in 1960 they build a mini-motel next to Admin building.
• They have very little parking on grounds. Most fairgoers are bussed in at no charge. Jerry said their bussing costs are about 2 ½ million dollars annually.
• They had a total of 13,000 animals in their livestock area.
• Miss Ellany (Johnson with the Strawberry Festival) got to see (and get pics with) 19 of her vendors.
• They had an agriculture education area for small children to walk through, plant seeds, pick up eggs, drive tractors, etc
• One of their vendors, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar, sells only chocolate chip cookies and sold over 2 million dollars worth at the 2015 fair.
• They have 9 Dairy Princesses from the surrounding area. Each girl gets her face carved in a 90 pound block of butter and they’re on display! They take them home after the fair.
• The Dixie Chicks were performing to a sold out crowd when we were there.
• The midway rides are paid in a unique way…Every ride brings their tickets to the office in large garbage bags where they are weighed and they’re paid by weight.
• The Horticulture building featured life size lady mannequins dressed in all flowers.

Obviously, these fun facts are the tip of an ice burg. Hopefully, you’ll get to see some photos which will paint a clearer picture. The trip was one to remember and I certainly thank Lisa Hinton and the Florida Federation for all their organizing efforts.
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Florida’s Fair Trip participants enjoyed the gracious hospitality and “red carpet” treatment from Jerry Hammer and all his staff at the Minnesota State Fair.
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