2013 marks 500 years since the discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon. In celebration of Florida’s 500th anniversary, the Florida State Fair branded this year’s 12-day event “Discover the Fun.” In addition to staples of the fair — the livestock shows, deep-fried Twinkies, and the Giant Slide — there were new, interactive opportunities to learn about Florida’s 500-year history.
On Opening Day, Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater joined me at the Florida State Fair to light the rides on the midway, present awards at the livestock show and ride down the Giant Slide. We also spent some time exploring the new exhibits celebrating Florida’s 500th anniversary.
At the fair, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services debuted “Florida Agriculture: Then and Now,” a traveling exhibit that demonstrates the exponential growth and impact of Florida’s agriculture industry over the last five centuries. The Florida State Fair is not the only venue where visitors can find this exhibit. Next, the exhibit will make its way to the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair (February 21 through March 3); the Clay County Fair (April 4 through 9); and the South Florida Fair (January 17 through February 2, 2014).
Also at the Florida State Fair, the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation unveiled a new museum. “Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition” tells the story of one of Florida’s oldest and most important agriculture sectors. The multimedia exhibit traces cattle ranching from its early beginnings in the 1500s through to present day.
Other opportunities visitors had to explore Florida’s history at the fair include the “Discovery Center,” a Tampa Bay History Center-curated exhibit, and the “ConquistaTOUR,” a self-guided adventure through the Florida State Fair including Florida’s Learning Garden and Cow Hunter’s Camp in Cracker Country. In addition, fair-goers could “Discover Florida” with a Broadway-style musical performance.
The Florida State Fair was just the beginning. Fairs and venues throughout Florida will celebrate Florida’s 500th anniversary this year. Join in on the family-friendly fun and learn about the history of our great state while you’re at it.
column by Agriculture Commissioner ADAM H. PUTNAM
photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services