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Southwest Florida Ag Expo opens



The Southwest Florida Ag Expo is under way at the Lee County Civic Center Complex in North Fort Myers.

The newly rebranded annual event opened Thursday and runs through March 10.

Lee County kicked off the opening with a ribbon cutting and a thank you to those who organized this year’s effort with its emphasis on youth participation.

“It takes a team,” said Miriam Dotson, SWFL Ag Expo spokesperson. “We’ve had hundreds of county employees come together, they come from different departments, including Parks and Rec.

“We’ve had different parts of the county that have been able to show their expertise and more experience in putting on large scale-events and be successful.”


If first reactions are any indication, the effort looks to be a success.

“It’s family-oriented. There is a lot of things to do with your family and it’s military day,” said Phyllis Allsworth, who was among the first attendees Thursday afternoon. “There are tons of cool stuff to try, and everyone should give the fair a shot.”

The emphasis this year is on the event’s rural roots with a focus on youths and youth programs such as 4-H, a program that in Lee County dates back to the 1920s when the Cattle Club was established on Pine Island.

Lee County hired the first 4-H agent in 1972.

Lee County Parks & Recreation Operations Manager Lisa Weaver said after speaking with members of the community after the county took over the fair operation their interest was apparent — showcasing the youth and livestock portion while highlighting the agricultural community.

The event is intended to spotlight the kids who are working really hard on their projects and showing off their animals, she said.

“That is the whole real reason — to showcase these kids, so they feel like the VIPs of the event,” Weaver said.

“It is going to be a good show,” Weaver added. “Many of them show multiple animals.”

Other fair favorites, including the midway, have returned as well.

Reithoffer Shows Inc., which does numerous events in the state of Florida, is bringing in the rides — including some new ones — Weaver said, adding they have been a really good partner, and they are excited to bring something new to the community.

There also will be skills exhibits featuring a variety of artisans.

“There will be a midway with rides, creative living events — quilting, knitting and crafting,” said Dotson, also of the Visitor & Convention Bureau.

Live entertainment has also returned.

This year’s lineup includes The Del Prados; One Man Band with Marc Dobson; Tadpole the Clown; Jurassic Kingdom Lockdown; the Moogician; Cowboy Camp with Les McDowell; Michael Felk’s Tinsmithing Show; Kids Foam Zone & Gameshow; Porkchop Revue; Pirate Man Down; Agricadabra Magic & Hypnosis Show and Roger Arahamson the Giant Bowl Turner and Reggie Delarm East Knoll Pottery.

Another new component of the expo is work to expand parking and overflow parking which, in the past, has been one of the biggest challenges.

“We are working on providing additional overflow parking across the street on 31. We are really excited to be able to offer that. All parking on both sides will be free, no parking charges,” Weaver said.

General gate admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 4 to 11 years old and free for children 3 and younger.

Promotional nights include:

• Opening Day, Thursday, Feb. 29, gates open at 4 p.m. for $1 gate admission.

• Sensory Friendly Day, March 1, gates open at 4 p.m. From 4-6 p.m. sensory friendly $0 gate admission and at 6 p.m. regular gate admission.

• Moonlight Magic, Friday, March 1, and Friday, March 8, from 8 p.m. to midnight $30 admission, which includes ride wristband.

• Community Night, Monday, March 4, gates open at 4 p.m. Free admission with three canned food items for Harry Chapin Food Bank, $5 gate admission, $25 ride wristband.

• Senior Day, Wednesday, March 6, gates open at 4 p.m., regular admission, and $5 for 50 years old and older, $25 ride wristband.

• Latin Day, Sunday, March 10, gates open at 11 a.m., regular admission and $40 ride wristband.

Livestock Show events include:

• Thursday, Feb. 29

6 p.m. Goat Agility Show

• Friday, March 1

6 p.m. Goat Costume Contest

7 p.m. Feathers Fun Costume Contest

• Saturday, March 2

11 a.m. Performance Horse Show

2 p.m. Goat Showmanship Contest

6 p.m. Beef Breeding Show and Showmanship Competition

6 p.m. Feathers Showmanship Competition

• Sunday, March 3

11:30 a.m. Goat Show & Awards

1 p.m. Feathers Awards – Showmanship and Show

• Wednesday, March 6

6 p.m. Swine Show and Showmanship Competition

6 p.m. Fur Showmanship Competition

• Thursday, March 7

6 p.m. Steer Show and Showmanship Competition

7 p.m. Fur Awards – Showmanship and Show

7 p.m. Horse Costume Contest

• Friday, March 8

5 p.m. Steer Grooming Show

6 p.m. PeeWees of SWFL & 4-H Cloverbud Awards

6:30 p.m. Horse Speed Show

7 p.m. Small Animal Auction

• Saturday, March 9

Noon Fur Fun Costume Contest

2 p.m. Fur Fun Show – Agility

2 p.m. Market Animal Auction (Steer & Swine)

6 p.m. Horse Fun Show

• Sunday, March 10

11 a.m. Horse Awards


Parking is free for the Ag Expo with overflow parking also available this year.

A site at 18871 Old Bayshore Road, about a mile north of the Lee County Civic Center Complex, will be used for overflow parking and equipment staging during the event that continues through March 10.

The overflow parking will be used during peak times during the Ag Expo and LeeTran shuttles will transport attendees back and forth to the Lee County Civic Center Complex using Old Bayshore Road, a county-maintained roadway, without using State Road 31.

The county also has made improvements and expanded parking at the event site, adding 300 spaces to maximize usage for events.

The Lee County Civic Center Complex is at 11831 Bayshore Road, North Fort Myers.

For more information visit swflagexpo.com, or follow its Facebook page, SWFL Ag Expo.

“We recommend people bookmark the website. We will continue to add more information – entertainment lineup, pass information, tickets will all be available on the website,” Weaver said, adding to also check Facebook, as they will be pushing information out there as well.