22nd County Fair Will Salute Clay's 150th Anniversary

This appeared in My Clay Sun - March 27, 2008

The 22nd Clay County Agricultural Fair, which opens Thursday and runs through April 12, 2008 will serve as a 150th birthday party for Clay County, complete with a birthday cake finale.

Also, in honor of Clay County's sesquicentennial this year, three ribbon-cutting ceremonies will be held, on opening day and later for two new buildings - a historic commissary and a picnic pavilion - added to the "Rediscover Early Florida Village" at the fairgrounds on U.S. 17, west of Green Cove Springs.

Sarah Boe, retired newspaper owner, started the 10-acre village exhibit in 1991 by getting a replicated Florida Cracker-style house constructed by Clay High School students. Then she obtained other log homes donated by Clay pioneer families. Exhibits continued to be added, including a barn, a church, a one-room school house, an old jail, grits mill and typical structures of early days in Florida. Master gardeners in 2004 planted a garden with heirloom seeds.

This year's musical headliners are country music singers Craig Morgan, Phil Stacey and Marty Stuart.

Morgan will appear the last night of the fair, April 12, in the Cattlemen's Arena, performing such hits as That's What I Love About Sunday and Redneck Yacht Club.

Stacey is an American Idol season six finalist whose country single, If You Didn't Love Me, is ascending country charts and is the lead song on his debut CD, set for release April 29 on Lyric Street Records, according to his MySpace page.

Marty Stuart, known for rhinestone-studded suits and merging traditional style, rockabilly and honky tonk had a string of hits in the early 1990s. Most recently, Stuart released Badlands: Ballads Of The Lakota, an album that pays tribute to the Sioux culture in what is now South Dakota.

Gospel and Southern bluegrass performers will provide live entertainment in the village, which will be open for walking tours every day of the fair.

And on April 12, the closing day of the fair, birthday cake will be served at 2 p.m., coinciding with a ceremonial unveiling of a mural to be created by children who visit the fair.

"Happy Birthday, Clay County. We are excited to be a part of Clay County's year-long celebration," said Pete Sutton, fair superintendent, at a fair kick-off luncheon Tuesday. "Our fair is a family affair and each year it's like a family reunion. Clay County is a great place, even after 150 years, people are still recognizing it."

About 45 percent of last year's 75,000 fairgoers were from out of town, according to the computerized admissions system, Sutton said.

On opening day Thursday, gates open at noon and close at 11 p.m. An opening day ribbon cutting ceremony, conducted by Dale Wilson, board chairman for the Clay County Fair Association, will be held to call attention to this year's theme, "It's a Clay Celebration ... Clay County is 150 Years Old."

Fair food vendors galore, livestock, clowns, a stilt walker and Washboard Willie, the one-man band, will be on the grounds every day. Watch pigs race and sea lions perform. Also, celebrities like Jaxson de Ville and Ronald McDonald will make occasional appearances. Live entertainment will continue on the main stage in the Cattlemen's Arena, the Florida Times-Union Stage and the Heritage Bank Community Stage.

By Mary Margaghy

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