Come for a ride on the Stinger and a heaping plate of fair fare, but don’t skip milking a cow at this year’s Collier County Fair and Exposition, March 16-26. Plus, it’s a chance to learn a thing or two about STEAM.
Part of the Collier County Public Schools’ (CCPS) curriculum, STEAM stands for science, technology, engi-neering, arts, and math. But at the fair, the “A” also stands for agriculture, and inside the Family Living building, there will be an augmented reality sandbox. It’s a large 3D topographical map that can simulate water (or lava) and how its flow alters the landscape. “You can make it rain and watch how rivers fill and how the oceans work,” explained Rhonda Ward, fair manager. “It mes-merizes you.”
The interactive system reinforces how farmers can be affected by the en-vironment and the value of agriculture on society. “We want kids to realize that it’s more than just planting a tomato and a farmer seeing it grow,” added Ward. “They learn how fog can take out a whole tomato crop.”
The fair added the STEAM exhibit as a way to tie agriculture to a student’s classroom curriculum. “We want to keep agriculture alive – keep it going in the future,” said Ward, who has seen the decline in agriculture interest first-hand. Additionally, there will be a 3D printer on view and new items will be created, whether functional or artistic, by the printer throughout the fair. These items will be combined into a display during the fair’s final week. Other STEAM offerings include a LEGO Team Build Off, where groups of five will create and construct with Legos based on a theme for a prize.
Younger children can take part in a STEAM activity too, and sign up for Funny Gears, where various contrap-tions will be built. Each fair day, the gears will be different. “We hope [the fair] can be an experience and educa-tional at the same time,” said Ward. “We really care about education.”
The Demolition Derby, a fair favorite, will take place Sunday, March 19. Gates open at 1:00 p.m. with the first race at 5:00 p.m. “It’s the same wreck-age we’ve come to love,” said TJ Snop-kowski, Collier County Fairgrounds marketing and sponsorship director. He also mentioned CCPS Proud Day, 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on March 20, when a CCPS badge – staff, student, or volunteer – will get you free admission. See www.colliercountyfair.com for a schedule and other discount days.
Here is a sampling of fair shows: Wall of Death Motorcycle Show, Team Rock The Ninja Experience, Circus Incredible, Nerger’s Tigers, pottery and blacksmith demonstrations, as well as live entertainment on select nights. There also will be arts and crafts on dis-play, livestock, and bee exhibits.
“Come enjoy the food and sample an Elephant Ear,” Ward said of fair must-dos. “Go to the petting zoo and see an exotic animal. There are also new kiddie rides this year.” She suggests families see the livestock shows and come during the week when ride lines are shorter. “It’s like Disney World, you can see and do more on weekdays.” But be prepared for the elements by bringing a hat and wearing sunscreen.
The fair is a non-for-profit organiza-tion that receives no funding from Collier County or the state. The organization sup-ports local 4-H clubs and hosts a garden planting session every September where children and adolescents can come to the fairgrounds to plant a specimen they can enter in a fair competition. Those potted plants will be set up in the Family Living building for viewing. In addition to fair competitions in livestock, there are also arts and crafts competitions, and every entry will take home a fair participation ribbon. “It’s free to enter,” said Ward. “All of us have kids that make things you can enter.”
The “educational programs are a core part of the fair,” said Snopkowski, “There is so much going on. Come ride the rides, eat the food, see the performers, and enjoy the live entertainment on certain days. And since the kids are off of school, it’s an opportune time to visit the fair.”
It’s not just a fair...
The fairgrounds host several annu-al events like Country Jam Florida, Haunted “Gross” House and the Big Swamp Smoke Off. Plus, the organization raises money for its charitable foundation, Making Life Fair, which supports many en-deavors in the community. It gave one Collier family presents this past Christmas and has donated money for funeral and medical expenses. “It all goes back into the community,” explained Rhonda Ward, fairgrounds manager. “We’ve even given more than $50,000 in scholarships.” At the IAFE (International Association of Fairs & Expositions), the fair was honored with two awards in January. They were: “Innovate Way(s) Technology is Used To Benefit Agriculture Program(s) at Your Fair” and “Technique / Procedure / Policy Developed by Fair Management To Correct an Issue or Challenge Related to an Agricultural Program”.
When: March 16-26, times vary. Where: Collier County Fairgrounds, 751 39th Ave. NE, Naples.
How much: Admission is $10 for adults, 12 years and older; $5 for kids 6-11; free for children 5 and younger. Ride tickets: Armband prices vary each day, with specials on select days. The MegaPass includes one day/night admission and unlimited use of all ticket rides, and is $25 (available online only through March 15).
Parking is free. For more information, visit www.colliercountyfair.com