Guest Commentary: Amazing year for the 99th annual Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair
The Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair welcomed guests for 11 days from Feb. 23 – March 5, 2023. Celebrating their 99th Annual Fair, they held a ribbon cutting ceremony with special guests including County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, Harry Chapin Food Bank Director of Programs Marissa Stress-Peterson, and County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell. Mike Peak, president of the SWFL & Lee County Fair Association led the ribbon cutting ceremony to kick off the celebration.
Throughout the week, the Fair welcomed more than 110,000 guests to the event as well as more than 1,000 exhibitors and more than 1,700 entries throughout the program and all competitions. The Home & Hobby and Horticulture Departments displayed arts from children as young 5 years old, all the way up to adults in their 90s varying from beautiful quilting, photographs, paintings, tablescapes, varying arts and crafts and right on down to Lego displays. There was Hay Bale and Wheelbarrow Decorating Contests, Youth Chicken BBQ Cook-Off, and a Puzzling Competition.
Our Livestock Department welcomed hundreds of exhibitors and their animals. The exhibitors were able to display their work in raising and caring for their projects, as well as their knowledge of their animal. With competitions such as grooming, showmanship, herdsman, fun costume contest, fun agility contests and many others, exhibitors show what they can do with their animals. The Fair Association is proud to be able to award thousands of dollars in prizes and awards to winners of each of these divisions for their hard work. At the end of the fair, there is an auction for Market Animals and for Small Animals that has raised more than $820,000 that goes right back to the kids and to scholarships that are awarded to college bound seniors in the 4-H /FFA program.
The Scholarship program offers more than $26,000 in scholarships to our graduating seniors.
The midway and food vendors were no small spectacle of the fair as hundreds of thousands of pounds were consumed throughout the week, and rides were constantly running with the sights and sounds of excited fair goers to be able to enjoy this once-a-year event.
We want to say a special thank you to our Board of Directors, our employees, and the many volunteers that it takes to put on an event of this magnitude. We could not do it without every person in this large moving event.
We have already begun preparations for our 100th Anniversary that will take place Feb. 29 – March 10, 2024. We are planning a lot of great new events and fun that will help fairgoers remember the past while reflecting on the future.
We want to always remember our grounds as the Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair, and we want our future to always reflect who we are while we look to where we are going.
— Fran Crone is the manager for the Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair