Florida State Fair officials have made policy changes in response to problems they’ve had with teens at the fair.
On Friday night, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office ejected 99 teens from the fair and arrested 12 people.
The sheriff’s office says more than 200 teens ran wild that night and created a public safety issue. The teens knocked over innocent bystanders, vandalized booths and stole goods on the midway, and engaged in fights to numerous to count.
A spokesperson for the fair says they have been in discussions with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on ways to prevent another occurrence of the Friday night fight atmosphere.
Tuesday afternoon, Chuck Pesano, the executive director of the fair announced changes.
Pesano says, effective immediately, anyone under the age of 18 who enters the fair after 7:00 p.m. must be accompanied by an adult who is 18 or older.
Next year, when Hillsborough County Schools allow students to take the day off for “Fair Day” anyone who comes to the fair with a free fair pass, must enter before 7:00 p.m.
It’s not the first time there have been problems on school day at the fair.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says in 2011 there were 93 ejections and 9 arrests on the fair’s opening day.
In 2012, there were 48 ejections and 8 arrests. In 2013 there were 56 ejections and 2 arrests.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says fair officials have been extremely cooperative in working on a plan for public safety.
At the Hillsborough County School Board meeting on Tuesday board members also addressed the issue.
School Superintendent Maryellen Elia told board members many good things happen at the fair for students, but the board should look at this as a public education opportunity.
Elia suggested started a public education program similar to the model now used for Gasparilla.
Board member April Griffin says the school system should be part of the discussion to make the fair a safer place.
“We in some small part contributed to this by having fair day and each year it’s happening and it’s starting to get progressively worse,” said Griffin.