THRILLS, MUSIC, & FOOD: At The 60th Annual Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair


What’s the difference between a carnival and a fair? A carnival is just about the rides and games. The Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair provides entertainment through agriculture and horticulture, showcasing Florida crops, livestock, and descriptions of the animals throughout the exhibition halls to create an educational experience for the entire family.

This year marks the 60th year of the Greater Jacksonville Fair. The fair is held November 4-15 in downtown Jacksonville adjacent to EverBank Field. They’ve got live music, carnival games, the best in fair cuisine from turkey legs to funnel cakes, and enough rides to lose them all on the midway.

It started as a way to bring agriculture into an urban setting. Since holding its first fair in 1955 with a total 45,000 visitors in attendance, the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair has educated visitors about science, the arts, agriculture and horticulture with cows, chickens and rabbits, oh my. Entertainment also includes live music, the Kachunga Alligator show, the Firefighter show, Nojoe’s Clown Circus and Robinson’s Racing Pigs.

Grandpas Cough Medicine
Grandpas Cough Medicine

Many great bands have passed through the fairgrounds over the years. Live entertainment from country to classic rock is featured nightly. Grandpa’s Cough Medicine kicks off the fair November 4 with some outlaw bluegrass. Country artist Frankie Ballard takes the fair’s main stage November 5 followed by William Michael Morgan November 6. Morgan is a young up-and-comer from Vicksburg, Mississippi. He released his first single, ‘I Met a Girl’, this summer and made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in September. The Chris Thomas Band starts the weekend off with a main stage performance November 7. Join multi-stellar award winner and Dove nominee, DeWayne Woods and Friends at the Gathering November 8. Hear soulful melodies and heartfelt tunes from his new CD Life  Lessons.  Joining him at the Gathering will be Amante Lacey, Danielle West, Khare Hawkins, Eric Burdine, Dr. Vera Goodman & Anointed Praise and Jeremy Littlejohn and Higher Praise.

Country radio chart-toppers Parmalee will headline the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair on November 9. The band has sold over 1.5 million singles and the current single is Top 20 ‘Already Callin’ You Mine’. In the last two years, Parmalee released the certified-platinum single, ’Carolina’ and follow-up single ’Close Your Eyes’. Lonestar performs its chart topping country hits ‘Mr. Mom’, ‘No New’, ‘Come Crying To Me’, ‘I’m Already There’, and ‘Amazed’ November 10. The band’s first single ‘Tequila Talkin’ went to Top 10 on the country charts. ‘Amazed’ is perhaps Lonestar’s most well-known song, which remained in the top spot on the country charts for eight consecutive weeks.

American Idol alum Lauren Alaina will make her second appearance at The Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair November 11. She rocked the main stage in 2012 with hits from her debut album, Wildflower. Songs off her debut album include ‘Georgia Peaches’, ‘18 Inches’, and ‘Like My Mother Does’. Her new self-titled album was released in 2015 and includes the songs ‘Next Boyfriend’, ‘Road Less Traveled’, and ‘History’.

Rising country singer and Florida native Michael Ray performs November 12. Ray writes his own songs and will introduce country fans to a fresh blend of traditional and modern country with a sampling of other musical genres. His debut self-titled album includes the hit ‘Kiss You in the Morning’.

Classic rockers The Guess Who earned fame during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Canadian rockers perform November 13 on the main stage. The band’s hit song ‘American Woman’ earned them the prestige of being Canada’s first rock band to have a #1 hit in the United States. Other notable songs by The Guess Who include ‘Clap For the Wolfman’, ‘Shakin’ All Over’, ‘These Eyes’, and ‘Undun’.

Local country duo Crazy Daysies perform November 15 during the ‘Wine Down the Fair’ sponsored by Burger Fi, Pinots Pallet, Sweetwater Craft Beer, and Jack Radio. An additional $10 fee for a tasting of wine, craft beer, painting and tasty burgers. Crazy Daysies have toured all over Florida and play as a trio with stage percussionist, Beau Littles. The duo’s EP Where The Dirt Runs out of Road and single ‘Honest’ have received plays on independent radio stations and Florida WBOB radio station.

The fair reports that its annual event has an estimated economic impact on Duval County in excess of $10 million. It also reports that the impact to the City through lease and parking revenues during the 12 days of the fair total nearly $200,000 a year. The private, nonprofit educational corporation also has made contributions to area charitable and civic organizations of about $3.1 million since the fair’s inception in 1955.

The Fair’s original home was the former Gator Bowl. However, in May of 1989, the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair Association broke ground on its permanent home adjacent its prior location. In 1990, the first fair was held at the new fairground facility, entertaining more than 700,000 patrons. Twenty-five years later and still going strong, the fairgrounds are still the place to get your annual fix of local livestock, fried butter, and country jams.

About Liza Mitchell