Published: October 31, 2008
TAMPA – The Florida State Fair Authority wants six more days of rides, fried food on a stick, roller derby, Elvis impersonators and livestock exhibits.
The authority voted this month to extend the annual fair from 12 to 18 days, starting in 2010, to finance $70 million in upgrades at the state fairgrounds in East Tampa.
Those improvements include building a 90,000-square-foot addition to the Expo Hall, gutting and rehabbing the existing 1976 hall, moving lakes, adding a waterfall and expanding the midway by at least 50 percent. Executive Director Chuck Pesano said the fair authority also wants to build a 200-unit RV park, add hotels and rework the entrance road from Interstate 4. But the fair, which receives no state or county subsidies, needs greater attendance to bring in enough revenue to finance the 15-year improvement plan.
With its current schedule, the fair cannot compete with fairs that stretch over 18 days.
“For all the work we do, why not have more time to enjoy it?” Pesano said.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, who sits on the State Fair Authority, said he can’t see a reason not to extend the fair.
“Attendance has done nothing but go up over the last couple of years,” White said. “But with the inclement weather, it might be helpful to have a few more days. I’m sure the vendors on the midway and the exhibitors would love to have another week.”