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'Are you feeling lucky?'

Clay County Agricultural Fair days away from opening gates

Don Coble, don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 3/28/24

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As the Clay County Fair Association wrapped up its annual volunteer and sponsor luncheon Tuesday, workers were already busy 200 yards away hoisting heavy support rails for a …

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'Are you feeling lucky?'

Clay County Agricultural Fair days away from opening gates


Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As the Clay County Fair Association wrapped up its annual volunteer and sponsor luncheon Tuesday, workers were already busy 200 yards away hoisting heavy support rails for a roller coaster ahead of the opening day of the Clay County Agricultural Fair on April 4.

The pre-fair pageantry and ceremonial festivities are done. All that remains are unloading livestock, erecting a twisting jungle of thrilling rides, and parking more than 100 food trucks that will serve everything either smoked, deep-fried, or covered in powdered sugar.

Fair time is upon us.

“Who’s ready for the Fair,” Executive Director Tasha Hyder asked more than 200 guests at last Tuesday’s luncheon. “We’re feeling ready. We’re feeling safe. Our barns, our partnerships puts us ahead of other fairs.”

The Fair’s Board of Directors will arrive at the front gates of the Clay County Fairgrounds on Thursday at 2 p.m. to start opening ceremonies. It will conclude 11 months and thousands of hours of preparations, including exhibits, games, rides, entertainment, food, education and agriculture for everyone.

Hyder had a simple answer for those who wondered about his year’s theme: Lucky 4 the Fair.

“Our Fair starts on the fourth on the fourth month of the year, and it ends on the 14th in 2024,” she said. “You going to be seeing a lot of fours on our T-shirts. We’re going to be using fours as if they’re alive. If you’re feeling lucky, think about a four.”

Deggeller Attractions, the fair association’s only ride provider since 1987, has increased its inventory of rides by seven to more than 50.

In addition to the award-winning Sunflower Hours and Unlimited Opportunities Goat Show for those with sensory and other visible and non-visible disabilities, the Fair this year added a Poultry Pal pageant.

The Fair staff had 102 meetings with the sheriff’s office, fire rescue, emergency management, the school district, and public works. They scouted other fairs to see what worked best and what didn’t. They enlisted more than 1,000 volunteers, many of whom have worked for more than a decade, who combined to contribute more than 30,000 hours yearly.

Shortly before the luncheon, the sheriff’s office and fire rescue held its unified command meeting to ensure they had considered all scenarios. They decided to establish a separate communications post dedicated solely to the Fair to expedite response times.

Since the fair association is a non-profit and not part of the county government, profits are returned to the community.

This year, 17 Clay County seniors from Clay, Middleburg, Keystone Heights and Orange Park highs and one St. Johns County Day School earned portions of nearly $50,000 in scholarships from the Fair.

The Fair also collected supplies for areas ravaged by natural disasters.

Hyder said the Fair emphasizes the Our Fair Care program to raise money, supplies, and awareness for the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry in Orange Park, Clay County Education Foundation, and Clay County Animal Control. The program was so successful in the first few days that store Manager Mike Finnick’s Winn-Dixie in Green Cove Springs needed to empty his collection bin after just six days – 11 days before the Fair opened. When the new bin was delivered, more than 100 canned goods and 50 boxes of macaroni and cheese dropped off by noon.

“Last year was a big year for us,” Hyder said after drawing a record 156,480 people. “We expect more this year. We’ll be ready for them, and they’ll have a great time.”