Fairgoers arrived at the Lee Civic Center as the sun set on a warm Thursday night for the first night of fun.
They had never come to the opening of the fair on a Thursday night, but officials decided to give the public a sneak peak of things to come for the next week and a half.
For $12, fairgoers got to ride the rides, thrill at the sight of sea lions and see the countless animals that will dominate the action at the 89th Lee County Fair, which officially opened Friday and runs through Sunday, March 3
The ferris wheel as the sun sets on the first night of the Lee County Fair in North Fort Myers on Thursday. It wasa sneak-peak night, with low admission and unlimited rides.
And judging by the crowd, it could be something that becomes an annual event.
"We're very excited. It was a great night tonight. A lot of people came out and got a sneak peak and see what the fair was all about," said fair board member Frank Sherkus. "We have new rides and new vendors, a lot of offer."
As it was a sneak peak, places such as inside the civic center were off limits until Friday, but there were many fun attractions for kids of all ages.
Cordella Doston of Fort Myers rode the slide with her son, Dyhron, 2, who was attending his first fair. It probably won't be his last.
"This is his first time and he's enjoying it. Everything is new to him and it's so much fun," Doston said.
Some slightly older kids took to the bumper cars. Taylor Hoy, 7, rode shotgun while Kym, her mother, tried to figure out how to steer. The result was a Malachi Crunch from the other riders.
"This is our first time and it's great. It's the perfect night, not too many people," Kym said, who came from Cape Coral. "The kids want to ride everything. They may be going to school late tomorrow."
Inside the Tinsley Pavilion were the animals, mostly chickens, rabbits and ducks, which has become a tradition with many a county fair thanks to the people at 4-H.
Dianne Miller was there with her granddaughter, Aryana and her rabbit, which she was confident would win her a ribbon.
"This is what she picked. She could've had a goat, chickens, but she chose rabbits," miller said. "She has educated herself and can tell you about any rabbit and 4-H has brought her grade point average from a 2.8 to a 4.0."
Aryana came from Port Charlotte to take part in the fair, the only Charlotte County participant. She had gotten a lot out of 4-H.
"It teaches you responsibility and learning so many new things, and what I learned is about rabbits," Aryana said. "I'm confident I can win first place in showmanship. I believe in her and her strength"
The preview also featured a look at the sea lions who packed the bleachers for their show, and the Hat Boys, who sang some golden oldies, some to the sea lions' entertainment next door.
And, of course, there was food. Turkey legs, funnel cakes, sausage and peppers and hundreds of other delectibles.
"It's starting slow, but with the $12 admission people are showing up," said Josh Gray of Cape Coral, who manned one of the countless food booths. "I love coming here. It's the home company from here."
Even if sneak peek Thursday doesn't come back, it was a good gamble for event organizers.
"We heard the pleas from the people. Budgets are tight, so we opened it up, got the rides going and it's a good bargain for the public," Sherkus. "If the public likes this, we'll look at doing this again."
The Civic Center is located at 11831 Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-543-8364.