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Smallest, biggest and best ends Monday

The Florida State Fair wraps up a week in Tampa on Monday.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published February 19, 2006


TAMPA - Jeremy Miracle has spent half his life attending the annual Florida State Fair.

Sunday marked the first time he saw the "World's Smallest Woman" - and she was a lot taller than he expected. "I thought I was going to see a small person," said Miracle, 20, of New Port Richey.

At $1 a peep, he said seeing the 2 1/2-foot woman was one of the cheapest thrills on the midway.

That and the "World's Smallest Horse" at the next booth over for only 50 cents.

It, too, proved too much of a bargain.

But all the world's "smallest," "biggest" and "best" will soon move on, as Monday marks the end of the 102nd Florida State Fair.

Fair goers this year had to brave the coldest weather of the season.

As temperatures rebounded this weekend and soared into the 80's, the crowds returned.

Exact figures were unavailable Sunday, but fair officials expected attendance to be comparable to previous years.

Cindy Alvarez, 15, of Clearwater, had never been to the fair and she wondered why she had stayed away so long. The old-fashioned lure of the fair had its charm, she said.

Where else could you go to have a man guess your weight, ride a mechanical bull and ballroom dance for a single admission price?

"Everybody can go to Busch Gardens. It's always there," said Alvarez.

"But this is only for a few days each year."

Pat Harsch, 34, of Clearwater, managed to drown out the sounds of the midway with music on his headphones. He listened to LL Cool J while carving out sculptures in 70 tons of recycled sand inside an exhibit hall.

"I hide behind my headphones," said Harsch, a performance artist with Team Sandtastic.

He put in eight hours a day since the fair opened. The mounds of sand had become bears, a cow, a pig and two young boys crashing into each other on bumper cars.

Because it's about the performance, he said, the piece is never really done.

Today, it will all come tumbling down.

"It gives a new meaning to sand boxes," said Kandi Harper, 49, of Inverness, who looked on with her friends.

Inside the Special Events Center, Alan and Judy Lamb of Sun City Center, both 60, looked like a couple of state fair pros. They should. It was their fourth visit to the fair in the past week.

"We come for the entertainment," said Judy Lamb.

On Sunday, they had come to watch the ballroom dancing competition. In between judging sets, they took more than a few twirls together wearing nothing on their feet but matching socks.

"We're snowbirds," said Alan Lamb. "This is a lot better fair than we have back in Michigan."

-Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 18:39:12]


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