For more than 35 years, dairy snowbirds have flocked to the Florida State Fair for the Dairy Old-Timers Breakfast, and for more than 20 years Larry Hawkins of Evansville has had the February event blocked off on his calendar.
Each year 15 to 20 states and Canada are represented for the “good old-fashioned get-together,” which takes place this year on Feb. 14, with breakfast at 7:30 a.m.
“The first time I went to it 20 years ago, I ran into people from the county in Ohio where I grew up,” Hawkins said. “We used to show together at fairs, so to run into them all those years later in Florida was just kind of a neat thing.”
Hawkins, who retired from Byron Seeds but now does some work with Forage Innovations (“I was retired, but now I’m doing some things.”), plans his annual trip to Florida so he’s in the area for several weeks at the time of the breakfast.
Kerri Lefler, agribusiness coordinator with the Florida State Fair, said the event has been drawing between 40 and 50 attendees the past several years.
“We get a lot of people coming down to stay in Florida during the winter time,” Lefler said. “They’re not all fully retired. We have a couple from New York who helps with the event who are semi-retired. Their kids run the farm while they’re away in Florida, and then they get back to helping on the farm when they go back north.”
Attendance peaked for the event at about 100 several years ago, Lefler said. But with so many people from colder states visiting Florida in the winter, Hawkins said he would like to see attendance climb back to those levels.
“There’s a lot of new people coming down there every year,” Hawkins said. “We’d like to see some new faces and maybe some new traditions started.”
The breakfast is on the 355-acre Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. Following breakfast, attendees will hear a featured speaker and then have the opportunity to attend the State Fair dairy show in the show arena. Dairy judges Nathan Thomas, the owner of Triple-T Holsteins and Jerseys in North Lewisburg, Ohio, and Dale Chupp, co-owner of Chupps Guernsey Farm in Inola, Oklahoma, will be joining the group for the breakfast, Lefler said.
The 2020 Old Timer’s Breakfast kicks off with coffee and greetings to old friends and new acquaintances, according to a news release for the event.
There is a $15 charge for breakfast that includes admission to the Florida State Fair and parking. Attendees are requested to pay by cash or check when they enter the fairgrounds through the livestock gate on Orient Road on the east side of the grounds.
“It’s a heck of a deal,” Hawkins said. “It’s just a great get-together, and we all walk down to watch the dairy show, and you get to park right in the middle of the fairgrounds.”
The 2020 Florida State Fair runs Feb. 6-17 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. To register for the breakfast, contact Karen Walker with the Florida State Fair Authority Agribusiness Department at 813-627-4339. For more information, contact Gary Mithoefer at 317-225-9025 or Hawkins at 608-516-0101.