Fair brings back lots of beloved entertainers

By Kit Ingalls
Published February 17, 2007

DADE CITY - Trainer Gary Noel travels the country with his dogs, all rescues from animal shelters. Along the way, they stop and perform. "Barks Brooks" sings. His canine compatriots showcase their talents: dancing, acrobatics and, for the show's star, Paco, Noel appears as Marshall Rowdy Yo. His wife, Giovanna Cardella, is Calamity Jo.

"You were GREAT," wrote Jay Leno, after "Doggies of the Wild West" appeared on the Tonight Show. Folks who saw the act at the Pasco County Fair several years ago agreed, and the Fair Association received requests to bring the group back.

"It's just a cute, little family show," said fair annual chairman Tracy Thompson. "Kids love it."

Honoring entertainment requests is one of the ways the Pasco County Fair Association is saying thank you to the people of Pasco, who have been coming to the fair for 60 years.

The Freemans return this year. Their single, He Chose Me, is the No. 1 gospel hit in the nation. The Down East Boys, favored for their quartet harmony, also are back for Thursday's Gospel Music Night.

The Lewis Family will appear Wednesday, Bluegrass Night.

"We don't open the doors until 30 minutes before showtime," Thompson said. "People will be lined up from Dan Cannon (auditorium) down to the food court, and back behind the office. They're the first family of bluegrass music. They're world-renowned."

Magician and hypnotist Ron Diamond returns to the Back Porch Stage, as does Ringling-trained comedic juggler Sean Emery, who bills himself as "the world's tallest leprechaun."

The new Wild World of Animals show mixes comedy and education for all members of the family. Also new this year are strolling performances of the Mechanical Man and the Fritzy Brothers One Man Circus.

While the emphasis is on returning performers and traditional exhibits, such as farm animals, horticulture and handicrafts at the Back Porch, fairgoers also will find some new features at the Diamond Jubilee.

Fans can see their favorite cowboys ride, rope and wrestle steer at no extra charge this year. Sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the rodeo is free with fair admission Friday and Saturday.

Each day, at a randomly selected gate, the 60th person to enter will receive prizes and discount coupons.

Fairgoers can register each day to win a diamond tennis bracelet valued at $999. The winning ticket will be drawn Saturday, during a 2 p.m. WJQB-FM 106.3 live broadcast.

By popular request, those hungry for corn dogs, elephant ears or shish kebabs can come to the fair for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Only the food court will be open. A discount coupon, good for admission during regular fair hours, will offset the $2 entry fee.

The fair kicks off its 60th anniversary celebration with the Diamond Jubilee Parade at 1 p.m. Monday in downtown Dade City.

Fair gates open at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. General admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 to 12. Parking is free.