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Great weather & new rides make 2014 Sumter County Fair a success


By Linda McNatt

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The news headline at the Sumter County Fair in Bushnell, Florida was: Wade Shows takes over midway.

Fair manager Barbara Kane couldn't be happier.

"It has been a better midway this year;  that's for sure," said Kane. "We've already contracted Wade Shows for a couple of more years."

Kane was impressed with the organization, the cleanliness, the safety element of the equipment and the manners and friendliness of the employees.

Wade brought in about 30 rides to the Sumter County Fair this year, including the ever-popular Tilt and Spin, also known as the Tilt-a-Whirl. Wade Shows was founded in 1912 by Lee Wade. At first, the show played small events in and around Detroit, Michigan. Wade Shows prides itself for bringing affordable family entertainment to carnival fans across the country.

Wade Shows has been owned by Frank Zaitshik for more than 30 years. Wade Shows today is a national organization with offices in both Michigan and Florida. The company now owns over 100 amusement rides and attractions and entertains more than 15 million people each year.

"The kids love the big rides, and they really had a time this year," said Kane.

Ride armbands were sold for $20 every day. Admission to the Sumter County Fair this year was $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children under the age of five were free. All of the bands and entertainment were free with the cost of admission, and fair officials tried to stick with local entertainment, said Kane.

An Elvis impersonator, wearing his blue suede shoes, shook his hips and sang across the fairgrounds.

"He was really popular," said Kane. "Everybody was crazy about Elvis."

Another popular show was a western-style shooting exhibition that provided a kind of rodeo, trick-riding show and then worked with members of the audience on their shooting skills. The company was based in a nearby Florida town, according to Kane.
"They pretended to be gun slingers, and everybody really liked that," Kane said.

The weather was really nice throughout the fair, which ran from March 7 through March 15. The Sumter County Fair has been operating for 57 years since it was started in 1957 by the Sumter Fair Association, a non-profit organization that continues to oversee the fair today. Kane has been fair manager for 12 years. She said the 2014 event was among the top five fairs since she's worked with the organization.

"The temperatures were between 70 and 75 degrees the entire run of the fair," she said. "I think everybody enjoyed that great weather."
There was never even a hint of clouds or sprinkles, she said.

To keep a closer eye on everything that was going on at the fair during its nine-day run, Kane said she kept her personal recreational vehicle on the fairground's campground for the entire time. The campground is available for fair visitors to stay overnight during the fair.

The facility is located about 50 miles north of Tampa, and the Sumter County area is still somewhat rural. Residents take pride in their agricultural roots, and the fair shows the area's determination to continue to celebrate agriculture.

"In many ways, this year was a routine fair, but the livestock exhibits were outstanding," said Kane.  "We had all kinds of farm animals - chickens, turkeys, cows - we even had lambs this year. Every single livestock show was great, and there was very good attendance."

The local school students show a special support for the fair, said Kane. Future Farmers of America and 4H memberships are increasing at all of the schools and more and more students are attending the fair every year.

The annual market sale for the farm animals was held on Wednesday night, and that was also $1 admission day for the fair. Students participating in the sales were admitted free. There was also $1 admission on the last day of the fair. Unlike during previous years, there were no $1 ride tickets this year, said Kane.

The fair was advertised on the Sumter County Fair website and through other social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Fair attendance was about the same as last year, said Kane.

No matter what, throughout the fair, entertainment continued across the 50 acres covered by the fairgrounds.

"We've tried to use national entertainment, but that doesn't seem to draw any more people," Kane said. "Our residents seem to really enjoy the local talent."

Pete Hunt and the Southern Branded Band performed on Saturday, March 8, and the Sumter County Jeep Club held a show. On Sunday, there was free popcorn and soda for senior citizens from noon to 3 p.m.

March 9 was also "carload day." Everybody in the car entered the fair for $50. Up to a 15-passenger van could be used for entry. The only provision was that everybody riding in the vehicle had to be buckled in a seats.

Later that evening, country music singers Jo Dee Marie and Weed Carey performed.

The Steer Show and Swine Show were both held on Monday, March 10. The Market Lamb Show was held on Wednesday.

It was time for the talent show on Thursday, and the Ranch Rodeo was held on Friday. The Ranch Rodeo returned on Saturday for another successful run. The Goat Show, the final farm animal exhibit of the fair, was also held on Saturday.

Kane said she was tired but happy when the fair was finally over. Now, it's time to get ready for the next Sumter County Fair. The fair starts next year on March 5, 2015.

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