The year was 1904. The American Flag had 45 stars, Theodore Roosevelt was president, and it was the year that T.J. Laud-Brown, the manager of the Tampa Bay Hotel, convinced the city founders and the rail line that they needed to bring the South Florida Fair to the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel.
The South Florida Fair Association was formed and plans for a new exhibition were proposed. That first Fair had simple attractions and was held in a single building on a 27-acre plot adjoining the Henry B. Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, where the University of Tampa stands today. This event soon was known as the Florida State Mid-Winter Festival and was the place to be! Families from near and far would come to the festival to play games, eat fair food and win bragging rights for their prized Bull, best pie, or most beautiful quilt.
In 1915, the South Florida Fair and Gasparilla Carnival were officially incorporated with the Secretary of State office in Tallahassee. This new Fair became known as the Florida State Fair.
In 1975, Florida State Legislature created the Florida State Fair Authority and designated the Tampa event as the official Florida State Fair. In 1976, the Florida State Fair moved into “The Big Sombrero,” also known as the Tampa Stadium and home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while its final location was built.
In February of 1977, the first Fair was held at the location it’s still held today, near Interstate 4 and U.S Highway 301 in eastern Hillsborough County. The 330-acre site sits just seven miles from its original downtown Tampa location. Once moving to the East Tampa location, new buildings, barns and even the Mildred W. and Doyle E. Carlton, Jr Cracker Country living history museum were established. The Fair grew – and continues to grow – each year.
Today, the 12-day Florida State Fair attracts up to 500,000 guests. Each year, Florida residents create exhibits to show off their skills in agriculture, horticulture, crafts and more. Over ninety years later, bragging rights are still won for the prized bull, best pie and the most beautiful quilt. Midway rides provide our visitors with grand adventure. As the first State Fair of the year, we’re the first to showcase the latest and greatest in Fair foods such as the Pizza Cone, Redneck Burger, Bacon Ice Cream, and more! It’s affordable family fun at its best. Nobody does it better than the Florida State Fair!