JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville family favorite is back as the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair opens Wednesday at the fairgrounds downtown.
For many, the fair -- and the sights, smells and tastes it brings -- marks the real beginning of fall in Jacksonville.
But this year's fair will be the first in Jacksonville since a deadly ride accident at the Ohio State Fair in July. News4Jax watched rides being taken apart and examined by inspectors with the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday ahead of the fair's 5 p.m. opening.
Fair workers said any rides deemed unsafe will remain closed until they're up to standard.
Inspection certificates mean the rides are safe for their specific location. If a ride is relocated or adjusted, another inspection must be requested and passed.
Last year's fair also raised other safety concerns after 18-year-old was charged with child abuse when police said he sucker-punched a teenage girl at the fair, but that charge was later dropped.
Patrols were increased after that incident, and this year's event will have more security.
"(There's) a lot more out here," fairgoer Lanae Shaw told News4Jax. "I've been noticing a lot of the officers walking around here and security people."
Additional security cameras were installed to keep an eye on potential problems. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said it has also improved screening at the gates by putting in more metal detectors.
People who have been going to the fair for many years said it's a big improvement.
"There's definitely more security here," fairgoer Renee O'Kelly said.
The Sheriff's Office said given the tragic attacks at other events around the country, it was important to add security so people can focus on having a good time instead of worrying about potential violence.
"Those extra cameras, extra screening procedures, is just like going through the airport," JSO Sgt. M.J. Voneiff said. "It's a little bit of extra steps, but we are going to make sure everybody's safe and do our best to make sure everyone has a fun time."
According to the fair's website, the Jacksonville fair is the largest in northeast Florida with an estimated impact of $10 million in Duval County.
The fair moved from its original home in the former Gator Bowl to the fairgrounds in 1990, where it has been held every year since.
Returning to the fair this year are several fan-favorite free shows, including Robinson's Racing Pigs, the Firefighter Show, Kachunga and the Alligator Show and Nojoe's Clown Circus. The fair will also host its annual livestock shows at the livestock arena.
The fair also has its typical slate of nightly concerts, most beginning at 8 p.m.
- Walker McGuire – Wednesday
- Tyler Farr – Thursday
- Russell Dickerson – Friday
- Redneck Hummus – Sunday (4 p.m.)
- High Valley – Monday
- Little Texas – Tuesday
- WAR – Nov. 8
- LOCASH – Nov. 9
- Spin Doctors – Nov. 10
- The Lovin' Spoonful – Nov. 11 (3 p.m.)
- DJ Dance Party – Nov. 12 (4 p.m.)
Admission tickets are priced at $10 for ages 13 and up, and $5 for seniors (65 and up) and children 6-12. Children 5 and younger get in free. The fair also has deal days posted on its website for cheaper admission.
The fair's schedule varies by day, so check what times it opens and closes before you head downtown.
- Wednesday: 5-11 p.m.
- Thursday: 5-11 p.m.
- Friday: 3-11 p.m.
- Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Sunday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
- Monday: 5-11 p.m.
- Tuesday: 5-11 p.m.
- Wednesday, Nov. 8: 5-11 p.m.
- Thursday, Nov. 9: 5-11 p.m.
- Friday, Nov. 10: Noon-11 p.m.
- Saturday, Nov. 11: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Sunday, Nov. 12: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
For more information on fair events, entertainment, tickets and more, go to jacksonvillefair.com or call 904-353-0535.