SEBRING - This year's Highlands County Fair attendees will have a chance to visit the wild side.
A new event this year will be The Bengal Tigers Encounter, a tiger show, which will occur most days of the 77th Highlands County Fair.
For those not interested in tigers, there will be something for just about everyone at the fair, which will run from Feb. 7 to Feb. 15.
Among other things, the fair will feature livestock shows, rides, a hypnotist, music, a chainsaw carving show, contests, food and music.
Highlands County Fair Manager George White said set-up for the rides began Monday, set-up of exhibits will be today and the livestock will arrive on Saturday. He said there's a lot of preparation for the event.
"We spend two months working on fair stuff and even longer on paperwork."
One special event this year will be a whip cracking exhibition by three brothers who won the event at the Polk County Fair, White said. It will be held Thursday, Feb. 13, at Building No. 2 at 5 p.m.
The fair will feature the Jr. Miss Highlands County 2014 Beauty Pageant on Friday, Feb. 7; the Miss Highlands County 2014 Beauty Pageant on Saturday, Feb. 8; and the Little Miss Highlands County 2014 Beauty Pageant on Monday, Feb. 10. All three events will begin at 7 p.m.
Some 160 children and teenagers will display steers, heifers and hogs and the livestock auction will be held Thursday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the livestock pavilion.
Winn Stephens, who is on the livestock committee for the fair, said the youth begin raising their animals for exhibition around October. The animals usually sell for $2 to $4 per pound and the students get to keep the money.
If the bidding price is at the low end, he said, oftentimes people will join together in the community and increase the amount of money that is paid.
Younger kids will display rabbits and chickens.
As for the rides, most will remain the same, but there will be a new ride for kids in which they get into race car models, White said.
The lighting on many or all of the rides will change to LED lighting this year, he said.
Entertainment will include the Florida Bluegrass Express; Lloyd Maybre; the California Toe Jam Band; Cammie Lester, who won the Disney Idol competition last year; and the Avon Park High School Choir.
White estimates 35,000 people will attend the fair.
Richard McClain, a former fair manager and current fair board member who has been involved with the event for about 30 years, said it's grown a lot. New buildings were constructed, lighting has improved, parking space has increased and there are asphalt walkways, he said.
McClain said they've gone through three different midways and believes the one they have now is one of the better ones in Florida.
General admission is $8. Armbands, which provide admission to rides, cost $22.
Parking on fair property is $3 and the proceeds go to Sebring Baseball.
Gates open at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Exhibit buildings will be open 5 to 10 p.m. on weekday, 1 to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.