Miami folk know that March means a number of things. Winter Music Conference, for one, and St. Patrick's Day, for another. But what every local knows – and has known since childhood – is that March means the start of the annual fair.
It's the place "Magic City"-dwellers looked forward to attending most each year, whether it be to ride the since-retired Dopple Looping ("Double Looper" roller coaster); watch the circus acts; feed the goats at the petting zoo; or stuff their faces with cotton candy and turkey legs.
This year's annual Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition is being held in the same location its been since 1972, right off Coral Way and 107th Avenue, adjacent to the Florida International University Modesto A. Maidique campus.
So many rides to choose from at the Miami-Dade County Fair — Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County Fair
The biggest draw to the fair is the Midway. This year, the fair will be erecting up to 100 rides, everything from roller coasters and tower drops to carnival classics like the Ferris wheel, bumper cars and Tilt-O-Whirl. Younger kids will also enjoy the two Kiddieland areas that provide child-friendly rides.
Walking down the Midway with your date, your child or even your friends often also means playing lots of games. This year, the fair will have roughly 50 game stands, where you can test your strength, your aim or your speed, as you compete for a chance at winning someone special a giant stuffed dog or maybe a Dr. Seuss hat or even a goldfish in a baggie.
Elephant ears are a tradition at the Miami-Dade County Fair — Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County Fair
Live entertainment is another reason so many come to the Miami-Dade County Fair. Along with admission price, fair-goers get to enjoy fair staples like the Royal Hanneford Circus and the Show-Me Safari Petting Zoo.
2015 is bringing it up a notch, with a batch of brand new acts, as well, including the SkyRiver Butterflies Exhibit, World's Record Juggler Bruce Sarafian and the Arctic Games High Dive Act.
But shows like these aren't the only entertainment at the fair. There are also free concerts to draw in the weekend crowd, including a Freestyle Concert featuring Shannon, Judy Torres, Nice & Wild and Johnny O; a Disco Concert featuring Kool & the Gang; and other themed concerts for every taste.
Coming to the fair also means taking a nice, leisurely stroll through the various halls and pavilions that house vendor booths and student exhibitions. One hundred and thirty merchandise shops will be on site, as well as 40,000 student exhibits. So you know there'll be plenty to see and explore.
Some come for the rides and shows, while others come for the grub! — Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County Fair
Then there's the food: caramel apples, cotton candy, elephant ears, bloomin' onions . . . the list goes on. It's not the kind of place you want to find yourself at while you're on a diet, though you'll surely find something among the 170 food vendors to choose from.
Unique to this year are the related Foodie Awards. Check the event website to find out the locations of the finalists and get a taste of some of the most inspired new dishes at the fair.
Also new to the Miami-Dade County Fair this year is Beer Haven, touted as Miami's largest beer festival. Guests will get a chance to enjoy 60 taps of craft and traditional beers from the Great American Beer Station. An additional fee is required to party at Beer Haven.
The Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition was first held in 1952 and began as a place for local farmers to show off their more impressive crops and livestock and for local artists to show off their crafts.
It's since evolved into an unforgettable feast for all the senses, complete with roller coasters, endless concessions and plenty to see and do. Like the commercials say, it's all there. So buy your tickets, and head to The Fair.