Vicki Chouris wants everyone to enjoy the South Florida Fair.
That’s why the fair president and CEO said the event put in place a new rule this year for children ages 6 to 17 on Friday and Saturday nights, that they must be accompanied by an adult when entering the fairgrounds after 8 p.m. The adult will need proof of age, and in addition to paying for admission, all guests ages 6 to 17 must buy a ride wristband before entering the fair. Advance ride ticket purchases will be accepted.
“Safety is first and foremost in our decision-making process,” she said. “So we decided to go ahead and proact this year, instead of react.”
This year’s fair is Jan. 13-29. As it approaches, some parents have taken to local Facebook groups to question the new policy.
The fair first put the rule regarding minors’ attendance in place during the final days of last year’s event, after incidents that led to some frightening moments for fairgoers.
“Fortunately nothing bad happened, but when kids start gathering together and running through the crowds, it scares people, and that happened,” Chouris said of last year’s event. “Some drapery was pushed down, and there were just incidents of kids screaming and causing chaos. It made people uncomfortable.”
South Florida Fair organizers have seen a lot of unsupervised young people on the grounds, Chouris said. “It just isn’t good for the families,” she said.
The decision was made in the interest of safety and ensuring everyone can enjoy the fair, she said. “We want to try to make this so that everybody has a good experience,” Chouris said.
Why require the ride wristband? With the exhibits and buildings closing at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and most of the entertainment wrapping up around that time, rides and food are the primary reasons for people to be at the fair at that time.
The wristbands are “kind of our assurance that people are coming to the fair for the right reasons,” Chouris said.
In establishing the policy, fair officials looked to other similar events around the country. Some start their requirements earlier in the day or make it mandatory throughout their events, she said.
While Chouris said the primary goal is safety, she does feel for the young people this might affect.
“Quite honestly, your heart goes out to the young guy who’s 17 and wants to bring his girlfriend to the fair,” she said. “I get it. I really do.”
She suggested a teen in that situation arrive earlier in the day. People also can buy ride wristbands and pay for admission in advance to save money, she said.
“We’re just trying to avoid something really bad happening,” Chouris said.
After implementing the policy in the final days of last year’s fair, Chouris said her team received a very positive response.
“Nobody wants to come out here and spend all the money they spend, and then have an incident like that,” she said. “We want to make sure people know that they’re going to be somewhere that we’re doing everything we can so they enjoy their time with us.”
This year’s fair theme is “Dino-Myte,” with animatronic dinosaurs on display and dinosaur-related exhibits for families to enjoy.
For fair hours, where to find discounted advance tickets and more, go to www.southfloridafair.com.
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