Safety No. 1 priority for Jacksonville Fair, organizers say

With recent violence near fairgrounds, additional security measures in place

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Safety is a big priority for the 63rd Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair, especially with the recent violence on the city's Eastside, which is in close proximity to the fairgrounds downtown. 

Fair organizers told News4Jax they really stepped it up this year when it comes to security measures and safety efforts. 

On the opening night of the Jacksonville Fair, which fell on Halloween, fairgoers entered the gates through metal detectors and all bags were checked. According to officials, there is no size restriction on bags. 

To ensure everything goes smoothly, fair organizers said they made security their No. 1 priority. Before the gates opened, crews were busy setting up extra lighting. Gayle Hart, vice president of marketing for the Jacksonville Fair, told News4Jax that there is double the number of security cameras compared to last year's event. Some of those cameras are visible, will others are hidden.

"We have added additional security cameras, additional JSO (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) officers, we have added private security, we have magnetometers at the gates," Hart said. "In addition to the officers, we are going to have Fire and Rescue (personnel) everywhere, so there is always someone that can assist."

VIEW: Your guide to fun, food, music at Jacksonville Fair

Organizers said previous violence that has erupted outside the fair has reflected poorly on the event.

"And that’s unfortunate because this is a wonderful place to be and make memories with your family," Hart said.

In 2016, several fights broke out while the fair was open. At least one resulted in an arrest, but that charge was later dropped. 

Last year, an 18-year-old was shot blocks from the fairgrounds while riding in a car on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. Police said it was not connected to the fair in any way.

It's the same road where six people were shot Oct. 21, shortly before the Jaguars game began nearby.

Despite the violence on Jacksonville’s Eastside, fair organizers want people to know they're taking measures to keep people safe while on the grounds downtown.

"Some things do happen. You can’t prevent everything, but what you can do is turn around and be, like, 'Hey, we got security here to stop this problem,'" fairgoer Todd Fritts said. 

To keep the fair spooky and safe on Halloween, officials have rules and regulations in place. Only children ages 10 and younger are allowed to dress up. If a child age 10 or younger is wearing a mask, their eyes must be fully seen. Adults are not allowed to dress up or wear masks. 

In an effort to ensure the safety of fairgoers, officials with the state's Division of Hotels and Restaurants were checking food booths Wednesday before the gates opened. Officials told News4Jax that all the fair rides passed inspections by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

If a ride did not pass inspection, officials said, the ride would not be open and it would have a visible red card.  

The fair runs through Nov. 11. For more information on tickets, parking and concerts, check out the guide to the Jacksonville Fair on News4Jax.com or visit jacksonvillefair.com.

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