The 38th annual Firefighters’ Indian River County Fair was ablaze with fun the past couple of weeks, with children of all ages wandering about the fairgrounds in wide-eyed wonder. Since 1980 the local event has provided a venue for wholesome family entertainment while creating a platform for local youth to showcase their talents, agriculture and livestock.
Tantalizing smells drew crowds down the runway as carnies called out to entice passers-by to try their luck at bursting balloons and shooting out bullseyes – all with the promise of giant stuffed animals.
From atop the Ferris wheel, couples snuggled as they circled in the chilly night air and the bird’s-eye view of the fairgrounds gave children the chance to map out strategies to hit their favorite rides such as the Zipper, bumper cars and spinning teacups.
To keep things interesting, the firefighters bring in new performance shows each year. This time the Nerveless Nocks had audiences on the edge of their seats, watching as motorcyclists raced around in the Globe of Death, an 18-foot-tall steel ball cage.
Another big draw on the strip is always the Firefighter Training Show. Other fair favorites included the Old Florida Bonsai demonstration and the craft, baked good and canning competitions.
“The educational show teaches fire safety and what to do in case of fire,” said Steve Graul, assistant fair manager. “We’ve added beer and wine and increased our musical entertainment. Tracy Lawrence was a really big hit. It was sold out.”
“We’re already in the process of talking to the county about expanding the stage and entertainment area next year. No matter what the economy people will still spend money on entertainment,” added Wayne Howard, general manager of the fair.
The Firefighters’ Fair has a longstanding history of promoting agricultural endeavors through the 4-H Club.
“The fair is the culminating event for 4-H participants,” explained Darren Cole, 4-H program director. “They show their livestock and compete in judging and competitions after the year-long process of record keeping and data gathering.”
Members compete in a variety of competitions, including citrus trees, baking, barbecue, shooting and whip cracking. They also raise and show swine, rabbits, cavy, breed-stock, poultry, goats and steer; selling their livestock at auction on the last day of the fair.
Abigail Flynt, who has been involved with the 4-H for six years, started with swine and this year entered a steer, breed-stock, goats, a citrus tree, rabbit and a cavy. The 11th-grader admitted record keeping for that many animals was a lot to keep up with, but worth it.
“I was very shy,” said Flynt. “Through 4-H my leadership abilities and social skills have grown. We’re really one big family.”
Each year fair proceeds are disbursed to help local burn victims with their bills. To promote the missions of other local nonprofits the fair also hosted a blood drive for One Blood, a food drive for United Against Poverty and a clothing drive for the Salvation Army.
Photos by: Gordon Radford
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