Jacksonville fair adds extra day of setup to ensure safety

Fair board takes additional safety precautions after ride malfunction last year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Crews have been setting up since Sunday for the Greater Jacksonville Agriculture Fair. 

The 11-day event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds kicks off Thursday, and crews could be seen Tuesday, getting ready and putting together rides two days before opening day.

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE: Everything you need to know about 2019 Jacksonville fair

This year, the fair board said it's not taking any chances when it comes to safety, particularly after an incident last year when a ride malfunctioned, injuring several people.

During the final weekend of the 2018 Jacksonville fair, the Sky Flyer ride malfunctioned just as it started to operate with riders on board. The gliders hit a guard rail and each other. The injuries were discribed as minor.

Lawsuits have been filed, and this year, fair staff said they are taking extra precautions, including adding an extra day of setup to make sure riders will be safe. That is why the fair is opening on Thursday evening, instead of Wednesday.

"Also different this year is the inspection process. They are going to wait until the ride is completely done, and then they are going to inspect it," said Bill Olson, CEO and president of the Jacksonville fair. "In the past, they kind of inspected it as they went. They would find gates out of place, or little things."

Inspectors will be on hand Wednesday. The board said once the midway set up is complete, it will begin its job.

"I think it's better in the stance that they are not going through as they are setting up and saying that there are deficiencies, as they call them. It might just be a gate out of place. It might seem like a bigger deal than it really is. So all those little pieces will be done and they will inspect it," Olson said. "And if there is a problem, they will note it and fix it."

There has also been concern in the past about safety in the area around the fairgrounds and inside the fair.

"We still have security at the gates, with the bag checks and the metal detectors," Olson said. "And (there will be) more of a presence on the ground. We have hired additional security guards and additional [Jacksonville sheriff's officers] to be visible on the ground."

In addition to ride setup and inspections, workers have been gearing up for a number of events and concerts that will begin Thursday evening. 

For more information about the 2019 Jacksonville fair -- such as tickets, deals and entertainment -- visit jacksonvillefair.com.

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