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Florida State Fair has taste of food and taste of history

10:30 AM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Sure, the crazy fair foods taste great, but this year's Florida State Fair also features a surprising taste of the history of the Sunshine State.

All of the fair food favorites are here: chocolate-dipped bacon, a burger with a doughnut bun, and some of the world's last deep-fried Twinkies.

But take the Conquista"TOUR" through the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa during the fair from February 7-18 and you'll get a fresh look at the fair and Florida.

See Also: Fair has some of the world's last Twinkies

Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon sighting and naming "La Florida," the fair is showing off the state's history in creative ways.

The Tampa Bay History Center has created a Discovery Center in the Family Living Center. Explore Florida's Learning Garden near Gate 3. Check out Florida Agriculture: Then and Now inside the Ag Hall of Fame.

And the newest permanent addition to the fair shows off a true Florida tradition. Walk under a wooden archway and into a world of saddles, spurs, and a medicine called "screwworm killer."

This new permanent area next to the Florida State Fair's cracker country is a sampling of a way of life that's been going on in Florida, almost the same way, for hundreds of years: cattle ranching.

Raising cattle for beef and milk in the United States got its start in Florida, when Ponce de Leon's Spanish crew unloaded the first cattle from their ships.

The industry's cowboys and cowgirls today rustle up more than $1.3 billion each year for Florida's economy.

In the new exhibit, physical items gathered from over several generations combine with large photos to capture both modern life on a ranch, plus what it was like in the past, back to the Seminoles and Spanish.

And staring you in the eye here is an amazingly preserved piece of history.

While you may think of big ol' Brahman cows as being Florida's favorite cattle, it all started with a comparatively little gal. Here you'll come face-to-face with a preserved cracker cow.

They're descendants of the earliest cattle brought to Florida from Spain and their small size, spotted hide, and upturned horns made them the most ready to adapt to our Sunshine State.

The cracker cow example on display at the fair's new Florida Cattlemen's museum exhibit is being preserved for the next generation -- just like the truly Floridian way of life shared by cattle ranchers.

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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