Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prepare for Some Toe-Tapping Fun Clay County Fair Kicks off Tomorrow

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prepare for Some Toe-Tapping Fun Clay County Fair Kicks off Tomorrow

Article excerpt

Livestock has been weighed in, midway rides have been set up, pies have been cooked and entertainment booked.

And that's not all. Oscar the Robot is ready to amuse, entertain and amaze.

Everything is ready for the 13th Annual Clay County Agricultural Fair, which begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the fairgrounds on Florida 16, 4 miles west of Green Cove Springs.

"All the entertainment is new and there will be some new rides this year, too," said Jack Watson, chairman of the Clay County Fair Association.

An estimated 95,000 to 100,000 people are expected to attend the fair this year, and those who arrive promptly tomorrow get to go on the rides free from 5 to 6 p.m.

Providing security and maintaining a safe environment throughout the event will be the job of numerous auxiliary deputies with the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

"The thing we hear constantly is that this fair is clean, it's safe and there's free parking," Watson said. "Parents feel like they can leave their kids at the gate and pick them up later."

The fair will end at midnight on April 10, featuring a performance by country music star Joe Diffie at 8 p.m. and the ever-popular potbellied pig races at 9 p.m.

In addition to all the action on the midway, opening day of the 10-day event will include a petting zoo, pig races, a Paul Bunyan lumberjack show, livestock and crafts exhibits, and a High School Night of Competition at 6:30 p.m. in the J.P. Hall Pavilion.

Student teams from all five Clay County high schools will compete to see who can eat the most pies, extract the most milk from accommodating cows, pull their opponents over the line in a tug-of-war and roll the farthest on homemade skis.

But the event likely to produce the most groans and ughs from the contestants will be "the dreaded Cow Patty Toss," said Mike Scott, executive vice president of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is sponsoring the competition and will present prizes to the winners, including a computer system for the first-place team's school and a $500 scholarship to the runnerup team.

At various times and days during the fair, students from throughout Florida will compete in three Florida High School Rodeos, potbelliedpigs will put on three dozen races and lumberjacks will display their prowess with sharp axes.

And Oscar, a robotic creature that walks around and strikes up conversations with people, will continuously be mingling amongst the spectators.

"He just roams around the fairgrounds talking with people and stuff," said Karen Black, office manager at the fairgrounds. "He's real neat. He goes right up to people."

Not entirely by himself, however. He has an anonymous handler.

"The man that operates him, you'll never know where he's at," Black said. …

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