Hundreds of people waited in line Thursday at Tamiami Park.
And at 3 p.m., with tickets in their hands and their stomachs to fill, they surged into the park as music played, roller coasters took off — and the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition was in full swing.
Food, rides and fun.
For Karly Sands, 11, it was the dippin’ dots. For others, it was the elephant ears. Or funnel cakes or corn dogs or donut burgers or yes, even deep fried Oreos.
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Opening day admission was $6, as opposed to the regular $12, and as part of a school spirit promotion, students in K-12 who wore their school uniform got in free.
And the 64th person in each of the ticket lines — in honor of the fair’s 64th anniversary — got free tickets to return to the fair. In all, about a dozen people got the unexpected surprise.
Lucia Roman, 21, was one of the winners. She said she’s been coming to the fair since she was little and was excited to go to the little shops at the fair.
Roman wasn’t the only one who knew the fair well.
Elizabeth Dominguez, 24, was there with her husband and their 2-month-old baby, Ella Amanda, and her parents and sister.
“We wanted it to be the first family outing with the baby,” she said.
Nidia Hernandez, from Hialeah, watched as her daughter Jessica Jefferson, 17, competed in a high school cook-off competition at the fair.
Her dish: the strawberry panic — a deconstructed strawberry shortcake.
“I love seeing all the things the kids are doing,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has been coming to the fair for years. She said she doesn’t go on the rides anymore but she loves looking at the exhibits, which include woodwork, graphics, crafts and robotics.
This year’s fair featured the largest mobile brewery in the world with 60 taps. (In keeping with the times, there also is a craft-beer exhibit.)
The beer haven wasn’t too crowded when the fair first opened, but fair officials expect people will frequent the brewery at night and on weekends.
The fair is also home to more than 90 stomach-churning rides.
Devon Shelton, 14, tried out the Fireball on Thursday, which swirls the sturdy upside down in a circular roller-coaster.
“It was fun,” he said. “I had a good time.”
Despite controversy over whether the fair would be at Tamiami Park in the future, the fair and Florida International University didn’t make that apparent during opening day except for signs scattered across the park that said, “Home is where the heart is! Celebrating 43 years at Tamiami Park. Show the Youth Fair your support.”
FIU wants build new student housing, parking and research and academic facilities, using 64 acres of the 86 acres the fair uses in Tamiami Park to complete its project. The fair has been at that location for more than 40 years. It has a long-term lease with the county through 2040, with extensions until 2085. If it were forced to move, Miami-Dade would have to find another expo site and pay for the move.
This story previously misstated the size of Tamiami Park.
If you go
What: The Fair
When: Through April 5 (open daily except March 16-17 and 30-31). Gates open at 3 p.m. March 13, 18, 19, April 1-2. The other days gates open at noon.
Where: 10901 Coral Way
Cost of admission: $12
Number of rides: More than 90
Price of ride tickets: P*O*P Ride Card: $28 Weekdays/$35 Weekends; 22 Coupon Sheets: $28; Express Pass: $15
For more information: visit www.fairexpo.com