The 85th Annual Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair is coming to town, starting tonight and running through March 8 at the Lee Civic Center.
It is one of the area's biggest events of the year, with all the music, rides, food and traditional fair fun that is the county fair. But this year, local talent and several special events were built in to reflect the state of the economy.
Concerning local talent, expect a lot of hometown favorites to perform.
"We are using a lot of local talent this year," said Alta Mosley, general manager of the Southwest Florida Fair. "Ronnie Morgan will be there, along with Brooke Huffmaster, Bill Gouley, the Golden Road Quartet, and we're going to have Robert Stowell, Chris McAurthur and The Milestone Band."
There will be national acts as well.
"The Doo Wah Riders will be the featured musical entertainer," Mosley said. "They'll be with us for 10 days."
85th Annual Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair
Today, Feb. 27, through March 8
Lee Civic Center, 11831 Bayshore Road, North Fort Myers
Adult, $6; child, $3; and under age 5, free
The Doo Wah Riders have been making music for more than 20 years as a country band with a unique, original sound. They will play daily on the main stage. For a sample of the group's style, visit the Web site: thedoowahriders.com.
According to organizers, entertainers Kandu and Jill the Music Lady create a show like no other, incorporating music, sound effects, sight gags, slapstick comedy and audience participation. They will be featured in daily shows.
There will also be a musical event featuring three area churches.
"On Monday, March 2, we will have a an old-time Gospel singing night. We have three churches - Grace Methodist Church/East Campus, Faith Assembly of God from off Bayshore Road and New Life Testament Church out of Lehigh Acres. Each one of them is bringing their chorale group and several are bringing their bands. That will be the entertainment on the main stage on Monday night."
Also sure to entertain is something new to the fair this year - the Live Shark Encounter. Mosley said she saw the act at the State Fair in Tampa recently, and calls it a "show stopper."
There is also a new ride this year - the Sky Flier.
"It's a 110-seat attraction," said Mosley. "It swings, then telescopes up and swings all the way around."
There will be a clogging competition and Irish step dancers as well.
"And, of course, we've got the traditionals - the petting farm you can't do without - and everybody loves the pig races."
In response to tough economic times, two events have been added to the fair.
"On Monday, March 2, we have a special night - it's the Harry Chapin Food Bank Night. Everybody that brings two cans of food will receive a free gate admission pass for that night," said Mosley.
"The economy is tough, and the food banks help a lot of people," she said. "We thought it would be a good partnership for those who come to the fair; I always tell people the fair is a showcase for the community, and this is a good opportunity to show the kindness of our community. We're also going to take the net proceeds from the gate admission that night and make that a donation Harry Chapin as well."
For families that may have seen some economic hard times but do not want to miss the fair fun, Wednesday is Family Night with two for one admission.
Those who want the latest news on the fair can check the Civic Center Web site: leeciviccenter.com.
"We've been constantly updating it," Mosley said.
Admission at the gate is $6 for adults and $3 for children. Those under age 5 are free.
The Lee Civic Center is located at 11831 Bayshore Road, North Fort Myers.
For information, call 543-8368. To order tickets, call 543-7469 or go to : leeciviccenter.com.