2023 South Florida Fair runs Jan. 13-29 in West Palm Beach
The 2023 South Florida Fair is ready to give Jurassic Park a run for its money, throwing this year’s theme back — way back — to a time when T-Rex ruled the land and pterodactyls soared through the skies. Dinosaurs — brought to life by tooth-bearing, beady-eyed, claw-wielding animatronics — will be the stars of the “Dino-Myte”-themed event from Jan. 13 to 29 at the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach.
Fried food, agriculture and livestock displays, ice skating and hypnotist shows, music, parades, rides, games and, yes, those cookie-chasing racing pigs are all returning fan favorites along with some new culinary indulgences, daily performances and talent showcases for the fair’s 111th anniversary.
To avoid weekend crowds, South Florida Fair President and CEO Vicki Chouris recommends planning your visit on a Wednesday or Thursday.
“We have all the same great offerings, just less attendees,” she said. “Another suggestion is to download the South Florida Fair app and plan your day before you get here. That way you can enjoy more shows and entertainment.”
With so much to see and do over the 17-day run, here’s our guide with what to know before you go and more ways to save.
The fair has been using themes for its exposition entrance since 1993, featuring destinations such as Alaska, Hollywood and New Orleans and a variety of topics from robots and superheroes to parades and animals, Chouris said.
“The Expo theme is new and different every year so the fair visitor does not know what to expect when they walk through the main gates,” she said. “We have a team that brainstorms the ideas and puts everything into place.”
With the recent popularity of the “Jurassic World” movies, Chouris said dinosaurs were an obvious choice.
Atlanta-based Imagine Exhibitions is showcasing its Dinosaurs Around the World traveling exhibit with animatronics depicting recently discovered dinosaurs along with the prehistoric creatures everyone knows and loves. An interactive Jurassic Kingdom Lockdown show, Dino Encounters Excavation Zone, mobile museum, roaming performers in costume and Dinotopia On Ice skating show round out the related exhibits.
Two new shows are on the daily schedule: Extreme Illusions and Escapes with the duo of Josh and Lea Knotts mixing stage illusions, escapes and music. Hollywood Horses Tricks and Tales is an educational show with Austin Anderson teaching horse training with audience participation, demonstrations and horses performing tricks.
“From what I understand, Extreme Illusions involves members of the audience so keep your head down if you don’t want to be on stage,” Chouris said. “The Hollywood Horses will be entertaining and educational because they will share insight as to how the animals are trained to star in Hollywood movies.”
Wine-pairing dinners, presented by the Sun Sentinel and Cugini Winery, are on tap for 7 p.m. Jan. 23 and 27 in the hospitality building. The winery is based in Calabria, Italy, with a tasting room in West Palm Beach. Tickets are $75 per person, including fair admission and food pairings, at bit.ly/3GkDJY3. Reservations are required. Wine tastings and demos (included with admission) also will be offered every day of the fair in building 3.
There are five stages of live music and entertainment throughout the fairgrounds featuring DJs, country, hard rock, hip-hop, hits from the decades and Motown, among genres performed by Palm Beach County bands and musicians from around the country. The Tribute Band Competition returns on Jan. 28.
Keep an ear out for drumlines that have been invited to a battle of the beats on the K&M Community Stage and the concourse buildings.
“We always have high school marching bands perform at the fair and, in fact, we have our own South Florida Fair Marching Band that anyone from the community can join,” Chouris said. “This year, our entertainment manager, Kayla Cawley, had the idea to invite drumlines to compete. This year’s first-time event will be small, but we know it will be very entertaining and it will grow in future years.”
Whether your go-to fair food is a giant corn dog, a powdered sugar-covered funnel cake, meat on a stick or ribbon fries drenched in cheese sauce, the classics are always on the menu. But if you’re looking for something different, check out Miller Lemonade’s pickle lemonade, Holy Macaroni’s Thai bowls and build-your-own macaroni bowls, Chouris said.
Fluffys Hand Cut Donuts will offer a doughnut filled with banana cream pudding, dipped in vanilla icing and topped with crushed Nilla wafers and a sweetened banana chip.
Bake N Bunches will serve up guava pastries, chocolate-covered strawberries, empanadas, churros, cannoli and cupcakes. The Biscuit Barn will have biscuit sandwiches and local favorite Guaca Go (with permanent locations in Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach) returns with vegan guacamole and plant-based meat options.
“With 80 food vendors, it is difficult to choose, but my annual tradition is a gyro from Strates Fine Food on opening day,” Chouris said. “From there, it is a different food for the next 16 days.”
You may want to hold off on the fried feast until after visiting the midway and the new rides this year: the Wave Swinger and Corky’s Wipeout.
Get your motor running at the Bike Nite Parade on Jan. 18 and Jan. 25. Hundreds of riders rev their engines and show off their motorcycles while riding along a special route through the fairgrounds. Admission is $5 per person for participants riding on a motorcycle. Staging is at 6 p.m. and the parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Parking is free for motorcycles from 4 to 7 p.m. After 7 p.m., onsite parking is $10. Bike Nite Concerts start at 7:30 p.m. on the Coca-Cola stage.
Yesteryear Village is permanent home to historic and replicated buildings such as a school, farm, blacksmith shop, general store and several houses. There are several museums and educational opportunities. New this year are glassblowing demos scheduled every day.
The fair gives kids the spotlight every year through school band and choir performances on the community stage and in parades, showcasing students’ artwork, youth livestock exhibitors and scholarships.
About 2,000 students from 40 elementary schools will lace up their running shoes for the South Florida Fair Kids’ Mile at 8:20 a.m. Jan. 14 at the fairgrounds. They will run the final mile of a marathon they have been working to complete over 12 weeks. Students who participate in the fair race will receive one free admission to the fair to use on the day of the race or any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. They also will receive a finisher’s medal, cape, bib number and refreshments.
Young bakers can break out the mixing bowl for the second annual Kids Bake Off from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 22 in building 3. Make your favorite cake, cookies or pie to be judged. One entry per participant for ages 6 to 12 and 13 to 18.
“We are family focused and children are the heart of what we are all about,” Chouris said. “Sometimes a school tour is a child’s first visit to the fair and they go home and tell their parents they need to go see the fair too.”
The South Florida Fair, 9067 Southern Blvd., in West Palm Beach runs Jan. 13 to 29. It’s open noon-10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. MLK Day (Jan. 16) and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Jan. 29 (closing day).
Regular gate admission is $15 Mondays through Fridays (except for $2 Tuesdays) and $20 on Saturdays and Sundays. Kids 10 and under are admitted for free.
The midway opens at 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. Saturdays, Sundays and MLK Day. Ride wristbands are $25 at the gate Mondays through Fridays and $40 at the gate Saturdays and Sundays. A Gold Access pass available at any ticket booth allows riders to move to the front of the line. Cost is $12 Mondays through Thursdays; $20 Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and MLK Day.
Advisory: Starting at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, all guests under 18 entering the fairgrounds must be accompanied by an adult. Proof of age will be required for the accompanying adult. In addition to gate admission, all guests ages 6 to 17 must purchase a ride wristband before entering the fair. Advance ride ticket purchases will be accepted.
General parking is $10 and $20 for premium. Cash or cards are accepted.
Call 561-793-0333 or 800-640-3247, or visit southfloridafair.com.
Attend the opening ceremonies at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 14 in the fair’s Ford Theater in the Expo Center and get in for free. Use an advance discount admission ticket on opening day and return for free another day. Seniors (age 60 and up) receive free admission from noon to 1 p.m. that day.
On $2 Tuesdays (Jan. 17 and 24), admission, rides and food specials are available for $2. Some rides are excluded.
Seniors (age 60 and up) get free admission from noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 19. Senior Day on Jan. 23 offers free admission for fairgoers 60 and up until 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for seniors after 4 p.m. that day. ID is required. Gates open at noon.
On American Heroes Day (Jan. 26), all active military, veterans, firefighters, law enforcement personnel and their families get $7 admission. Visit the Good Greek Moving & Storage booth in Expo West to purchase ride wristbands for $25. Valid proof of service with photo I.D. is required.