If it’s time for a pickle pizza, that must mean it’s time for the Florida State Fair.
Yes, that 11-day celebration of crafts, displays, agriculture exhibits, thrill rides, and really weird food begins today at the state fairgrounds in Tampa.
Normally by now, the Fair would be long gone, but as we all know, there is nothing normal about this time. Originally scheduled to open on Feb. 11, organizers deferred to COVID-19 and moved the Fair back more than two months.
It concludes on May 2.
Social distancing and other safety measures will be in force.
Traditionally, the Fair’s opening day is highlighted by the Governor’s Luncheon, but there won’t be one this year. Gov. Ron DeSantis is not expected to attend, but his chief nemesis in the Florida Cabinet — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — is scheduled to show up and officially open the event by flipping the switch on the midway.
Fried, along with some other VIPs, also will take a ride down the giant three-story slide to help kick things off.
The opening of the Fair is traditionally called Governor’s Day, but not this year. With DeSantis not planning to attend, the opening now is called Hero’s Day. There will be free admission for law enforcement, first responders, active or retired military, veterans, doctors, nurses, hospital & emergency clinic staff with valid ID.
However, one thing that won’t change is the variety of food available, most of which you probably never figured you would (or should) eat.
We mentioned the Pickle Pizza, but there’s more.
Fairgoers can sample Gelato Nachos, or the Pig Rig, described as grilled cheese stuffed with BBQ pulled pork and mac n cheese and BBQ sauce.
There’s something called the Deep Fried Caramel Apple Sundae, along with Deep Fried Molten Lava Cake.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite, try the Loaded Tater Burger.
It’s said to be a hamburger topped with shredded toasted cheese, stuffed with cottage fries and bacon, then topped with a ranch dressing, chives and your choice of lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion.
Bring your own Rolaids.
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will join local officials, first responders, and health care professionals to “flip the switch,” kicking off the 2021 Florida State Fair, 6 a.m., Florida State Fairgrounds, Midway Sky Eye, 4800 US Highway 301 North, Tampa. Use the Orient Road entrance (5111 Orient Road) and present media credentials for access to the Fairgrounds.
As we snarkily forecast Tuesday night, Sen. Lauren Book earned the votes needed to succeed Sen. Gary Farmer as Democratic Leader.
Good for her and good for the Senate Democrats.
Since coming to the upper chamber, few Democrats have learned to work the system as well as Book. She is smart, hardworking, and very — very — strategic. Since her freshman term, she has collegially worked her way into a chairmanship each Session while also managing to protect her left flank by voting with or by leading her party on caucus positions.
She has done this while remaining laser-focused on her legislative priorities and keeping her wits about her enough to pass bill after bill after bill — with two babies, now toddlers, in tow.
Standing in opposition to GOP initiatives with grace and sincerity, Book often challenges the opposition party without making enemies in The Process.
With all due respect (or not), this is a statement that simply cannot be said about the current Democratic leader. This Legislative Session alone, Farmer has trucked harsh tones with GOP leaders on contentious issues ranging from the now-signed protest bill (HB 1) to the now-dead transgender athletes’ bill (SB 2012).
“This bill is nothing more than a piece of political red meat,” Farmer said of the transgender proposal. “It’s been forced upon these chambers by the Governor. This Trumpian disciple who seeks to stamp out and thwart the voices of the people.”
But Book strikes a different tone, and, as a result, Florida’s victims’ rights have been strengthened, our schools and communities are safer, our environment is better protected, and our child welfare system has been reshaped in meaningful ways.
Book has a backbone of steel and is never one to back down from a challenge — just ask former Sen. Jack Latvala. At a time when many were afraid to come forward, Book wasted no time filing a complaint against Latvala accusing him of trying to intimidate accusers — one of whom worked for Book — during the sexual harassment investigation against him that eventually led to Latvala’s resignation from the Senate.
She has also been one of the most effective fundraisers in the Senate? Somewhere, Jimmy Patronis is breathing a sigh of relief that she likely won’t be mounting a challenge against him for CFO.
In short, Book has been a tour de force. And she’s done it her way — without caving to outside pressure for what or how she “ought to” legislate.
Now Book’s signature strength, determination, and strategic prowess will be turned to help her fellow Democrats hold onto critical seats in what promises to be a chaotic and challenging post-reapportionment midterm election. Though Florida Democrats face an uphill battle, their best chance for success undoubtedly lies with a powerhouse duo of Leader Book and FDP Chair Manny Diaz leading the charge.
And one final note: When Book becomes the Democratic leader, it will be the first time in state history where both Senate party leaders are women. Also good for Florida.
When asked, Book said her goal is to help elevate the Senate, organize the caucus to be an effective opposition voice, and find opportunities to work across the aisle and identify common ground to move an agenda that benefits all Floridians.
“There will be a time for campaigning and making our case to voters, and a time to fight vigorously for Democratic values. Then there will be a time to lay down arms and reach across the aisle to find common-ground solutions that benefit everyday people,” Book told Florida Politics.
“I believe Floridians are tired of nonstop, unproductive fighting like they see in Washington. I have a deep respect for Leader (Kathleen) Passidomo and her work to make Florida a better place for all Floridians. I know that we will work together above the fray of partisan sniping, because the people of Florida deserve that much from their elected leaders.”