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A day at Florida's State Fair (in photos)

(Joyce Edmondson)

The Florida State Fair is almost hard to describe. It's a combination of a theme park, flea market, mall, animal nursery, pub and food court — with neon thrill rides to top it all off. But the fair can also be quaint, with agricultural and educational exhibits, homemade crafts and entertainment.

Then there are the smells — good and bad. Two days after going, I’m still smelling Italian sausages, cotton candy, kettle corn, deep-fried butter, deep-fried oreos — all mixed in with the pungent smells from cattle, horses and pigs.

For me, the fair is the perfect way to play hooky from reality. I was at the fair on Tuesday, Feb. 11th, "Senior Day," which meant it was quiet on the midway (during the day). The free entertainment venues were packed.

The fair is a walkathon, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. If animals are your thing, stick to the permimeter, where the barns and exhibits are. I recommend the Mooternity, where newborn lambs, kids, calves, chicks and their mothers bleat and cheep until you give them a pinch of pellet food. Right before I arrived there, a dairy cow had gave birth to a bull calf on stage. I watched as the mother washed her newborn with her gigantic tongue.

“Oh, it's so sweet!" I said to Deanna Shepard, an ag teacher from Chamberlain High School, who was standing nearby.

"You do know they will be separated right away," Shepard told me. She explained that the bull calves aren't needed by the dairy farmers so they are taken from the mother almost immediately. Just one harsh lesson learned at the state fair. Shepard went on to tell me about the animals her students were showing at the fair: their beef cow, bunnies, chickens and goats.

Since Shepard was with her students, I asked them about the problems last Friday night (fair day for students), when gangs of students ran wild in the midway, as the newspapers reported. "We don't go on fair day," one student said.

"What do you think can be done to curb that?" I asked the group. Ideas ranged from no free admission to staggering the "fair days" across different schools.

After talking with the students, I ventured out of the Mooternity and into the midway. The bright colors were surreal. While my "Zipper" ride days are behind me, it was still tremendous fun hearing the pitches, checking out the prizes and watching those more adventurous than myself.

What's your favorite thing about the fair? Feel free to comment below.

The 110th Florida State Fair continues through Monday, February 17 on the fairgrounds in Tampa. For hours and directions, go to FloridaStateFair.com.