Fun at the Florida State Fair

18 02 2013


One thing I learned when I moved to Florida was that February is fair season! I work with teachers from across the state, some of whom are Agriculture teachers, who told me all about the Florida State Fair. Many of them have a vested interest in the fair since their students are showing their hogs and competing in many of the competitions.

Growing up in small beach town, I didn’t know anyone that owned cattle or showed their rabbits at the fair. When I went to college, I was fascinated when my college roommate told me she owned chickens, and they competed in competitions. Talk about a different world!

Since I missed the fair last year, I made a point to make it this year. On Friday, I drove over to the fairgrounds with my friend Chuck, who had also been itching to go. We paid our $10 to get in and immediately upon entering, we were overtaken by the sights and sounds that are the fair. WOW there was a LOT going on!


I knew what I was most looking forward to: the food! Deep fried everything, isn’t that what fairs are all about? I hadn’t eaten dinner yet so I was itching for some typical fair food. I opted to go with a sausage and pepper sandwich and to come back for the sweets later.



As I ate, Chuck and I walked around, checking out all of the different ride options. The rides were low on my list of priorities for the fair, but I figured that I couldn’t leave without riding just one. I figured that hopping on one of the twisty turny flipping rides so soon after eating dinner probably wasn’t a good idea, so we opted to walk around and go check out the animals while my food settled.

On our way, we played a quick game of skeeball. Gosh I love that game!


When we came across the first tent of animals, I was a little confused:






A giraffe? They bring these animals to the fair? I don’t think the giraffe was too keen on being there- he blew a snot rocket at the crowd and completely scattered the gawking onlookers. It was pretty funny!

These weren’t the competition animals, so we spent enough time for me to grab a photo with some goats before moving on.




Soon, we came across the section I had been anxious to see:




The whole culture of the fair and showing animals is something that is so completely foreign to me, which is why I was really looking forward to seeing this part of the fair. It is just amazing to me that kids in middle and high school raise these large animals to show them at the fair. And it’s not just about the showy part of it- the kids learn all about genetics and how to breed particular animals for particular traits. I have a much greater appreciation for farmers and cattlemen after my minimal exposure to the world of Agriculture.

First, we stopped at the poultry barn. There were rows and rows of different chickens. Who knew there were so many different kinds?? Some were big, some were small, some were colorful, some were funny looking,  some were very “normal” looking, and some were (dare I say?) really pretty!


They had held the competitions earlier in the week, so all of the prized birds were in a special section for all to see. This guy was one of them. What a funny looking bird!


This guy didn’t appear to be a winner, but wow! Is it possible to say something is both really beautiful and really ugly all at the same time?



Around the perimeter of the room, there were some kids showing off their birds. There was even a place I could hold a little chick! So cute!


After the birds, I was ready to see the livestock! We followed our noses and quickly stumbled upon the cows. There were rows and rows of cows, and again I learned that there are many different breeds of cows.




I was shocked by how large some of them were- I posed with this one, whose legs were almost as tall as I am, and I’m 5’7″!! IMG_6046


When our noses had had enough, we headed back out to go on a few rides! Chuck had his eye on this ride that swung like a pendulum, while spinning the passengers around in a circle. IMG_6052


O. M. G. I screamed like a little girl! Back and forth and around and around. Yikes! I was really dizzy when I got off and even had some trouble walking straight! Despite that, the ride was pretty fun.

We had a few more tickets to use up, so when we spotted that the Tilt a Whirl required the exact amount of tickets we had left, we knew it was meant to be.

Tilt A Whirl


Did you know that the iconic Tilt A Whirl was invented in 1926 by Herbert W. Sellner? How crazy would it be to say “You know such and such ride? Yeah, I invented that!”

The ride was definitely as fun as I remembered it to be, until the last 15 seconds. Around and around and around we spun and I got ridiculously dizzy. My stomach was definitely churning, but I was able to walk it off. Sheesh. I think I’m definitely getting older- I can’t take those rides like I used to!

I knew exactly what would be the perfect ending to my night- a fresh made Amish doughnut, whose tantalizing smell teased my me when we walked into the fair.


The warm glazed doughnut hit the spot! I left with a happy belly for sure!

I had a fun time at the fair and I’m really glad I went. I am certainly most fascinated by the showing of the animals, because it is so outside of my little reality. I don’t think that I’d go fair hopping every weekend, but once a year, it’s a fun little trip and a chance for me to learn a little about a different part of American culture. See ya next year, Florida State Fair!

Busch Gardens with the Fam!

29 10 2012

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, mostly work-related. I can’t believe it is almost November! What’s even crazier to me is that stinkin’ hurricane causing a raucous up north. My hometown is directly in it’s path, so I’m keeping all my friends in my prayers. Stay safe friends!

Thankfully, my family is down here visiting me! My parents and brother came into town on Tuesday and they planned on staying until today (Monday). Unfortunately, all flights in and out of Atlantic City have been cancelled, so they have to stay down here until Thursday! Too bad we have a cold front coming in. I guess a few cool-weather Florida days is better than windy/wet/powerless/cold NJ hurricane days.

On Friday, I took off work so we could spend the day at Busch Gardens! I think the last time I was here my dad was pushing me around in a stroller. I didn’t remember much about the park, but I knew it had a bunch of roller coasters. What I didn’t realize was there are animals all over the park, like a big (expensive) zoo.

We spent the day walking the park and checking out the animals. I was so exhausted from my week at work that I wasn’t really in a coaster-riding mood. I’ll need to go back with my thrill-seeking friends!

Especially if I plan to ride this thing:

uhhhh…Maybe not.

The park is smaller than the parks in Orlando, but walking around and seeing all of the animals took up the entire day. I don’t know how you’d have time to get on all of the rides and see the animals in one day!

I finally got to see Florida gators up close and in person!

And I saw a baby kangaroo nursing!

There are a lot of opportunities at Busch Gardens to get within inches of the animals.

One of which was the safari ride, which was a discounted $20 for the month of October.

This was probably my favorite part of the day, because we really got up close and personal with the animals. I’m sure it doesn’t really compare to a real African safari, but for $20, it was well worth the 30 minutes of riding around and seeing the animals in their “natural” habitat.



And the best part? We got to feed the giraffes! They knew that tours=food, because they walked right up and stuck their heads into the back of the truck.

We fed them leaves of lettuce for about 10-15 minutes, posed for pictures, and then said goodbye to our new friends.

We spent the rest of the day meandering through “Nairobi,” “Timbuktu,” “Jungala,” and the other sections of the park. I loved seeing the big cats (duh), and we watched the gorillas for quite some time.  One stood on a rock beat his chest all tarzan-like, and a few of the others were chasing each other. One even ran up to the window and loudly banged his fists on the glass, which was a little startling! I’m glad that glass was sturdy!


Watching them made me wonder what it would be like to be going about your business, but you’re being watched by these weird creatures who take pictures and point and stare?

Speaking of “business,” we saw (and heard) a giant tortoise handling some of, uh, his own business. Who knew tortoises grunt and groan?

There’s just no privacy, I tell ya!

And on that note, I’ll leave you with my favorite picture of the day:


Happy Monday friends!


14 08 2012

For the past two weekends, it has seemed like Bill and I have been playing a game of dodge ball rain with the storm clouds when trying to get in a bike ride.

I’ve learned that in Florida, it is actually possible to maneuver your way away from and/or around rain storms. Or you just get rained on for a little and then it clears as quickly as it started.

Last Sunday, we ventured up to the Suncoast Trail with a goal to ride at least 50 miles. We couldn’t leave home without properly fueling, so I made some blueberry yogurt and orange infused pancakes. Man oh man were they tasty! Next time you make pancakes, add a little orange zest. Trust me. It’s delicious!

On our drive to the trailhead, it started to downpour. Just great. We’re going to drive 30 minutes only to turn back around and drive home. But thankfully, it was a “typical” Florida storm, and by the time we parked the car and got geared up, the rain had stopped. Yeah!

So, we hopped on our bikes and hit the trail. We rode up about 12ish miles, but the clouds were looking very ominous up ahead. I was fearful we were headed straight for a huge downpour, so I told Bill that we should turn around. So, we headed back towards our car. Heading that direction, the sky was blue, so we discussed biking to the car, turning around, and doing the loop again if the storm had cleared out. Unfortunately, we were about two miles from the car and we saw more storm clouds ahead. Crap. We looked behind us, and saw blue sky. So, we turned back around and rode in that direction.

We dodged the rain that these clouds brought!

A few miles later, the trail splits off to a little park. There’s a 6.5 mile trail that takes you to the park entrance. So, we decided to ride that way, which would also take us away from the highway that paralleled the trail, and away from the storm clouds.

There were no other cyclists (maybe one?) on this section of the trail, but we did see some other signs of life.

A turtle!

I think we saw about 3 or 4 of these guys throughout our ride.

We also rode within feet of some deer. Unfortunately, the time I tried to get a picture I wasn’t fast enough! Can you see the brown spot in the center of the picture below? That’s a deer!

After riding this part of the trail for 13 miles (6.5 each way), we hit the main trail again and decided to keep on riding. We were feeling good, had the trail mostly to ourselves, and the overcast sky made the temperature bearable. We laid down a few more miles, and Bill pointed to look off the side of the trail. Armadillos!! There were five of these little guys crawling around. I thought they were actually kinda cute.

Though not as cute as the guy trying to lure them to come closer. 🙂

When they started to scurry away, Bill and I got back on our bikes to finish our ride. The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for a failure on my part to keep my electrolytes up. At around mile 60, I started to feel ill. I had taken salt tabs, and was drinking plenty of water and eating Gus and gels, but I just started feeling nauseous. So we slowed down tremendously and stopped at the rest area 2 miles from the car. I drank some Gu Brew and sat for a few minutes before I felt ready to continue. We slowly rode the last two miles back to the car and then I drank up some Gatorade. I still wasn’t feeling 100% until we stopped for some Chipotle and I drank some Coke. I used to turn up my nose when people told me that Coke was the drink of choice after a triathlon or marathon; now I usually bring a can with me to long training sessions and races.

When it was all said and done, Bill and I had ridden 63.5 miles.

That’s a PDR for me! Yeah baby!

This past weekend, Bill and I had grand plans to get in a good long bike ride. We weren’t going to do 60, but we decided to get in a good solid 40. We drove to a five mile long, quiet road which dead ended into cow pasture.

To the left of this there’s a research center, and on the same road there’s a hospital and a gated community. So random.

We figured we’d do four loops, and then go for a little run. When we started our second loop, I saw clouds rolling in. We heard thunder as we rode away from the storm, and when we turned around, I feared that we’d be in the pouring rain when we got back to the car.

Thankfully, it appeared that the storm was passing off to our west (south? east? not sure which direction). But unfortunately, Bill and I were both feeling kinda crappy on the ride. We thought about pushing through, but opted to go for a short jog before the storm hit. By short jog, I mean we only went half a mile. Wah wah. Neither of us were feeling the run either, and we worried about leaving the bikes tied to the truck while we ran. So, we threw in the towel and went home. A 20 mile ride and a half mile run ain’t so bad, right?

We were almost home when the sky opened up. I was relieved we didn’t get caught in that! Later, we caught sight of a rainbow that filled the sky. I wish I had the ability to take a panoramic shot, because it was a full rainbow!

Two weekends and two bike rides, both of which we managed to walk away from having dodged the rain. I’d say that is a win in my book!