JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The thousands of people who went to the annual Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair had to walk through metal detectors and complete bag checks to get in. But all the precautions didn't stop shootings nearby.
Two teens, ages 16 and 17-years-old, were shot Saturday morning on Union Street, blocks away from the fairgrounds. A week before, on November 5th, an 18-year-old was shot on A. Phillip Randolph Street, also near the fair.
"I smelled gunpowder and I can actually see the smoke and I was like OK that’s not fireworks," said Angel, a woman who lives in the area. "I laid on the floor. It was about the safest spot."
According to Jacksonville police, one of the two teens shot on Union Street was in critical condition.
News4Jax crews saw several evidence markings the neighborhood where the shooting happened, indicating a number of shots were fired.
Gayle Hart, with the Jacksonville Fair, said "they had nothing at all to do with the fair. They were not in the fair, not even in the parking lot," in regards to the two shooting incidents.
So what is the fair doing to ensure event-goers are safe? Police officers and private security were hired to monitor the fair and, for the first time ever, security cameras were installed to keep an eye on everything.
"We put time, effort, and thought and money into making sure that the Jacksonville Fair was as safe as it could possibly be," Hart said.
Hart also said the annual festival has gotten a bad reputation from the recent violence and, while data is not yet available, may have negatively impacted attendance.
However, the fair is scheduled to be back for its 63rd year, next year. The non-profit that runs it wants the fair to continue to be a safe and family friendly.