A Day at the Florida State Fair

Florida State Fair

The giant Ferris wheel at the Florida State Fair.

The Florida State Fair, like all good fairs, is a festival of the senses. The sights and sounds thrill, but the smells … breathe deep and relish those smells.

No matter the season, a fair is the provenance of olfactory gratification.  Booths and stands draw you in with the aroma of baking, grilling, popping, twirling, frying — so much frying — food.

Barns and pens fill the air with sweet farmyard. Unless you live hip to shoulder with livestock, where else can you smell bovine, equine, fowl, rabbit, sheep, goat, dog and person blended to such a divine mud-pungency?

The food selection at the Florida State Fair is astonishingly diverse, but nothing hits the spot like a deviled crab and strawberry shortcake from the Alessi Bakery stand in the Expo Hall. This annual tradition is a great way to start the day.

At the Florida State Fair, the living museum of Cracker Country sits nestled in its quiet oasis alongside one of the rad midways of the world. You’d think a state so immersed in theme park culture would shrug and yawn at the site of these Ferris wheels and spinning contraptions, but there’s something different about the fair.

Those parks, the Disneys and Universals and Busch Gardens, they’re for the rest of the world. This fair is ours, and has been since 1904.

Besides, none of those other places allow us to celebrate our sense of smell so thoroughly. The Florida State Fair … we went back to the first Saturday of the 2018 version, and it did not disappoint. Share our experience: Watch the video, check the photos, but remember … you won’t have the complete picture until you’ve been there and breathed that sweet fair air.

The 2018 Florida State Fair lasts through Feb. 19.