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2016 State Fair opens under threatening skies

Posted at 5:34 PM, Feb 04, 2016

It's opening day of the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

Did you know this is the 112th such gathering?

Way back in 1904, with the help of city and railroad officials, the first South Florida Fair took place on the grounds of what's now known as the University of Tampa.

Despite economic busts and two world wars, it continued to grow, gaining the name Florida State Mid-Winter Festival and then the Florida State Fair.

It was often held as a part of the Gasparilla festivities way back when, but all that changed by the mid-70s when it was decided that a bigger venue was needed. In 1977, it moved to its current location, a 330-acre site near U.S. 301 and Interstate 4. Since then, it's continued to grow. So too has the scrutiny of law enforcement.

"We have resources that are gonna be seen -- and several that are not gonna be seen," explained Major Sank Montoute with the Hillsborough Sheriff's Department. "So that is something for those who are planning to come out and cause any disruption, rough behavior, or break the law that you will have no idea who's looking at you."  

A couple of more additions to the fair this year that might catch your fancy include the White House Experience -- from the President's Hall of Fame in Cleremont.  You can even get a selfie in the "oval office." And, if you're so inclined you can host your very own White House Press Conference.

The "Moo-ternity" tent is where you can see calves being born.

There is another amazing hands-on element -- The Butterfly Encounter from Spring Hill.

"We travel throughout the United States," said Jason Lurie of The Butterfly Encounter, explaining that he's able to take a little of Florida out on the road, but insisting he's happy to be here at the fair. "We're home now," he explained.  "This gives you a chance to interact with Butterflies."  

Of course, there are plenty of places to eat.

After all, it is the the State Fair!