A Visit To Cracker Country at The Florida State Fair

It’s usually late summer or early fall when most people think of their State Fair, but that’s not typically the time Floridians think of theirs. The first week of February is when the magic begins for us. We don’t have the drastic change in seasons to remind us it’s time for the annual fair. Don’t think that means in the 112 years the Florida State Fair has existed that there weren’t times when we had to trade our shorts and flip-flops in for a pair of jeans and long sleeves. Our blood runs a little thinner than most here in the Sunshine State. When the mercury dips below 70, we understand the dangers of prolong exposure to the elements, and we break out the socks and a light jacket.  February is usually a bright, warm time to explore and have fun at the fair.





The 2018 Florida State Fair opened on February 8th with all the rides, food, and fun. High temperatures were in the 80’s.  For 10 days in February, The Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa hosts this massive event that’s filled with hundreds of food options, rides, crafts, animal competitions and exhibits.  Food concoctions you never imagined were possible are available here. The food is expensive and not the healthiest with more fried food than you ever thought possible, but it is a huge draw for the crowds. Lots of lemonade is sold for about $7 for a large plastic container.









Anyone for gator mac n cheese?



Buy your tickets in advance of the Fair online for a discount.  Tickets are not discounted after the Fair opens. If you plan on going on rides as much as possible, purchase your armbands online or at select Walgreens prior to the start date of the fair for discounted rates. The armband will allow you to ride as many times as you want. Purchasing individual tickets will be far more costly and not recommended. There are plenty of rides to choose from for kids and adults of all ages. There are multiple Ferris Wheels and most of them provide a great view of the fairgrounds and surrounding areas.












You will find a wide array of animals in the exhibits and competitions. Award winning cows, pigs, chickens, roosters, rabbits and dogs compete for prizes every year. There are horse competitions and even carrot eating giraffes. In one of the halls, there are competitions for best plants, aquariums and homemade crafts.













Although the rides, exhibits, and food are fun, my favorite part of the Florida State Fair is the free admission to Cracker Country, a little Florida learning experience and museum.





Cracker Country & A Little Florida History



Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first European expedition to Florida in 1513, named the state in tribute to Spain’s Easter celebration known as “Pascua Florida,” or Feast of Flowers.  He landed on the East Coast, near present-day St. Augustine. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States.  The state was the first mainland realm of the United States to be settled by Europeans. Thus, 1513 marked the beginning of the American Frontier.

Hundreds of thousands of natives already called Florida home when Europeans first arrived in the early 16th century.  But it did not take long for the ensuing wars, slave trade and European diseases to nearly wipe out the aboriginal population.  The slave trade — Florida Indians were taken as slaves as early as 1520 — helped kill off the aboriginal population.  Pre-contact with Europeans, there were multiple tribes throughout Florida; sadly those groups of natives no longer exist.

Seminole history begins with bands of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama who migrated to Florida in the 1700s. Conflicts with Europeans and other tribes caused them to seek new lands to live in peace. The 1770’s is when Florida Indians collectively became known as Seminole, a name meaning “wild people” or “runaway.”  In addition to Creeks, Seminoles included Yuchis, Yamasses and a few aboriginal remnants. The population also increased with runaway slaves who found refuge among the Indians. During the first half of the 1800s, U.S. troops waged war with the region’s Native American population.  The Seminoles of Florida call themselves the “Unconquered People,” descendants of just 300 Indians who managed to elude capture by the U.S. army in the 19th century.






Cracker Country







Most of Florida was a wild frontier into the early 20th century.  There were spots on the coast developed for the rich who came down in their yachts for the winter. Much of the rest of the state was wild, marshy land with rural towns and farms dotting the landscape. At Cracker Country you will see and learn about how people aka Crackers lived in the late 1800’s throughout the state of Florida. Pioneers lived off the land and their own ingenuity. What makes this very unique are the original wooden buildings that have been moved here. All the structures are over 100 years old, and it is filled with local history.  Volunteers are dressed as they would in those days and show visitors old-time skills like woodworking and basket weaving.




Cracker Country is open during the Florida State Fair, select dates in the Fall and school tours. During the fair, it closes at 6pm as there is no electricity in Cracker Country. It’s free to walk around and visit the different buildings, watch demonstrations and take in the landscape. Plenty of space for the kids to run around, and there are wooden benches for parents to sit and relax for a little while.







This is a unique local treasure for learning about Florida history. Volunteers and donations make this exhibit possible. You can see an old post office, school, library and church buildings.



















You can always watch wood working, basket weaving, metal work and gardening.






The old country store offers rock candy, train whistles and other old toy and food options for a good price. You can take away your favorite parts of the past for a cheap price. There are plenty of crafts, honey, pork rinds, kettle corn and souvenirs available for purchase.  The Zephyrhills honey is wonderful. The train model and caboose are a huge hit with the kids.








When you’re in Tampa in February, be sure to go to the Fair and check out Cracker Country.




















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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

28 thoughts to “A Visit To Cracker Country at The Florida State Fair”

  1. I grew up at the FL state fair. Best fair ever. I still remember the pronto pups. And gasparilla… so jealous you get to go to gasparilla parades and ybor.
    As to the pink elephant watering can.. amazon. of course! LeeAnna at not afraid of color

    1. There’s time for you to come down for the March Strawberry Festival – great fun! I should have known it was Amazon. I’m checking it out all the time.

  2. It looks like a really fun time! We have fairs similar to this in the fall but I love all the history behind the area that goes along with it.

    1. It is an unusal place but some other states have done something similar. Georgis has The Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village right off I75 and it’s even bigger and better than Cracker Country. Has a working mill grinding corn from fields, a printing press, etc.

  3. What a neat fair! Makes me rethink going to the NYS Fair this year. BTW…I love the very last image [the snow scene]…beautiful light.

  4. Enjoyed all the pictures. So beautifully captured! Lots of good reading here. Had no clue Tampa had a fair in February! Glad I popped over and thanks so much for visiting me. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  5. Your state fair sounds like a lot of fun…and I love the time of year that it is held. Here in WV I don’t think that would work very well, but in FL it sounds ideal!

  6. Oh what fun… especially the yummy food. I haven’t been to a fair in many years. Ours are always in September here in Tennessee . Happy weekend to you. 💜

    1. Oh I know. I grew up in East Tennessee and always went to Knoxville to the fair. September is a bad time for a fair here in Florida. It’s the height of hurricane season with lots of heat, humidity, and storms. February is mild and beautiful with lots of snowbirds with money to spend. Jan, Feb, March amd April there are lots of events and places to go. To be honest I don’t go to most things in the summer. It’s just too hot.

  7. What an amazing fair Carol! My kids would love to visit here. I really enjoyed reading about the history of Cracker Country, sounds like a great way to spend the day.

    Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC. Have a lovely weekend 🙂

  8. Is that real gator mac’n cheese? Well, I should be surprised. I have seen fried butter on state fair. We have two big ones here (Los Angeles County and Orange County). I have stopped attending because things have gotten really expensive in the lat few years. You have to pay to enter, pay to park and then the food is not that good (plus, it is crazy what they sell there). I may go back in the future. I think the event is best enjoyed with friends. #TPThursday

    1. Yup real gator on the mac n cheese. Yes it is too expensive and the food is not healthy as everything is fried. People seem to love it and the crowds are huge. Most things are better with friends.

  9. I enjoyed your tour of your state fair. I imagined myself enjoying the ice cream cone as I wandered around Cracker Country. Thank you! Maybe this will be the year I make it to our own state fair in August.

  10. Oh I’m so glad my kids have grown up and they can take their own kids to the state fair:) I am not one who’s a fan of rides, and fried food even less. That’s not only for fairs, but also for Disney, Six Flags, Universal Studios, etc. Living for 30+ years, I probably had too much of it. But taking photos of the details are great fun:) So thank you for capturing this event for All Seasons!

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