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County Fair arrives today with rides, magic and more

The Pinellas County Fair runs through this weekend with a variety of activities and shows.

By MIKE SAEWITZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Lifelike string puppets. David Copperfield-esque illusions. Turkey legs "as big as your arm."

The Pinellas County Fair opens today at the fairgrounds, 7901 Park Blvd., next to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market.

The fair will run through Sunday, said Janet Huntley, a fair spokeswoman. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday. Weekend hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 11.

The fair features the "interactive" Marionette Star Theater, which uses string puppets to tell stories, Razzmatazz Magic and Illusions, and Mark Preston's Comedy Safari, said Joe Fairchild, an illusionist who has participated in the fair for five years. Each act will perform twice nightly, with afternoon shows starting Friday.

The fair also has roller coasters, a Ferris wheel 90 feet high, an exhibition for local artists, and live music on four stages, Fairchild said. This year's fair will include five new carnival rides, including Power Surge, one of the "latest, biggest rides," he said.

The Pinellas Park Local 2193 of the International Association of Firefighters will host one food stand and two beer stands, with proceeds going to the association's Benevolent Fund, which helps victims of fires and natural disasters, said Gill Hammond, the association's secretary and treasurer. The association's food booth, which will sell roasted corn and hamburgers, raised almost $4,000 at last year's fair, while the beer stands raised about $10,000, Hammond said.

The Marionette Star Theater, which will perform at the fair for the first time in four years, is "storytelling (with) a little humor in it, but it's not what you'd call comedy per se," Huntley said. "It intrigues little children."

Fairchild, who performs in Razmatazz, said the show will feature the kind of magic "you'd normally see in Las Vegas." For example, an illusionist might "saw" a female audience member in half or make an audience member disappear.

"There's some comedy built in there," he said.

Of comic Mark Preston, Fairchild said "his show is hard to describe. It's a collage type of show. Exotic birds are his mainstay. There's whipcracking."

The live bands include Tommy G. and the High Seas, country act Jerry Smith and the Crystal Creek Band, and the Florida '50s Original Rockers.

For information and show times, call (727) 541-6941.

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