I’ve never attended a County Fair before, but when my girlfriend, Marlene, told me there would be pig races at the Sarasota County Fair – well, that’s something I just had to see. On opening day last Friday we arrived in time to see the very first race.
As the first five pigs were herded into the starting box the announcer introduced each of the porkers – Oscar Mayer, Christina Ham-guilera, Brittney Spare Ribs, etc., and picked one person from the crowd to act as a personal rooter for each pig.The starting buzzer rang, the gate dropped, and they were off! Black streaks, they raced around the track, each one determined to cross the finish line and get to the cookies that awaited. The next heat was much the same, except that these pigs were white.
The third and final race promised to be the best, featuring Ivan The Terrible. Again the announcer asked for volunteers, but this time he wanted pot-bellied spectators to root on the Chinese pot-bellied pigs that would compete in the final race. Not surprisingly, no one volunteered, forcing the announcer chose people from the crowd.
As luck would have it, he chose me to root for pig #3. The buzzer sounded, the gates raised, and they were….strolling! All five fat oinkers waddled a few feet and stopped to munch on the wood shavings on the racetrack floor. Occasionally the leader took one forward and the three behind him followed slowly. Bringing up the rear, #3 turned around backwards and headed back to the starting gate. No amount of screaming or cajoling could make them move any faster. I laughed until tears streamed down my face.
Following the races we wandered around the grounds, watching the kids on the rides, checking out the midway games, and generally eating our way through the food booths. Two orders of curly fries with cheese, a vegetable Gyro, and a bag of cinnamon cashews later, we strolled through the livestock booths, looked at all the winning art and craft entries, and stayed around to hear a group of old-time musicians play Americana tunes on guitars, a bass fiddle, and a Dobro. We ended our afternoon at the outdoor circus ring, where a well-trained elephant balanced on a pedestal, dunked a basketball, and kicked a giant beach ball into the crowd.
I had expected a rinky-dink affair, but it was an excellent fair, and at a very affordable $6 admission (kids 4 through 12 are $1 and seniors age 55 or over are $4), it’s certainly a great family activity during these difficult economic times. The 73rd annual Sarasota County Fair runs through March 22nd. Hours are as follows: Monday through Thursday: 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Fridays: 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; Saturdays: Noon to 11:00 p.m.; and Sundays: Noon to 10:00 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays are student days, with free admission for all K-12 students.
Even if, like me, you dislike carnival rides and refuse to participate in the midway games, go anyway. The people watching is great, and it’s great fun to see the kid’s deighted smiles when they see kooky things like pigs racing!