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Lee County Fair opens Thursday at Civic Center

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 24, 2021


Last year, the Southwest Florida Lee County Fair beat the clock, closing just before the pandemic ground public events to a halt.

And while there was concern that there might not be a 97th version of the fair this year, it will go on after all, starting Thursday, Feb. 25, and running through Sunday, March 7, at the Lee Civic Center.

However, it won’t be like the fair attendees have seen in the past. Things will be much more spread out and the rides will be cleaned frequently to follow CDC guidelines and keep people safe.

Mike Peak, president of the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair Association, said it’s a different event this year, with fewer rides and games of chance.

“Big changes for us, absolutely. CDC guidelines are our guiding post. We’re spreading out the rides so we can socially distance and have fewer independent vendors,” Peak said. “We’ve also thinned out what’s inside the civic center and even changed the animal schedule.”

Inside the civic center, the school booths will remain, but most of the entertainment and talent will not take place, again to comply with social distancing. Peak said many of the dance studios, for example, could not participate.

The fair has moved its goat area from Tinsley Pavilion to the swine barn for the first weekend. The goats will leave on Monday and the swine will come in on Tuesday, with the show on Wednesday. Peak said the swine have been there the whole time in the past. The auction is not expected to change much, but will follow recommended CDC guidelines.

Peak said as far as attendance, many of the other fairs have seen little to no impact on attendance.

“Their numbers appear to have stayed the same as in the few years. Manatee County Fair, Lake City Fair, they’ve already occurred. And staff visited and stayed in contact with them, and the numbers haven’t seemed to drop off, so we’re optimistic about that,” Peak said.

Last year’s fair drew slightly more than 100,000 people, which was about 10,000 people shy of their all-time record.

As always, the sneak preview will be next Thursday at 4 p.m., with $1 gate admission and $1 rides with a $10 purchase.

Friday will be the official start of the fair, with free admission from 4 to 6 p.m. and free rides from 5 to 6 p.m. The first Moonlight Madness will be from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., with $25 admission.

The weekend will bring regular gate admission and $40 ride wristbands. Active military and veterans will be admitted free with an ID card for the entire fair. Gates open at 11 a.m.

Monday, March 1, is Harry Chapin Food Bank Night, with free admission with the donation of three cans of food. Tuesday will be $15 Tuesday, with all the rides you can handle for $15 after gate admission.

Wednesday is Senior and Military Day, with gates opening at 2 p.m., with $5 admission all day and $10 ride bands for kiddie rides and $20 for all rides. Thursday is $25 admission for the gate and all rides.

Moonlight Madness returns Friday, March 5, while Sunday, the final day of the fair will have a last push promotion, which they keep secret until then.

Free attractions include the Eudora Farms Petting Zoo, Ron Diamond Hypnosis Magic, Marc Dobson, the One-Man Band, the Moogician, Tadpole the Clown, Renata The Band, the Fritzy Brothers, Danny Grant’s Cowboy Circus and more.

General admission tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Children age 6 to 11 is $4 in advance, $5 at the gate. The $25 Mega Pass, which includes admission and all the rides, is available until next Thursday.

For additional information about the fair, please go to swflcfair.com.