Clay County Fair leaders talk safety plans ahead of opening day

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. — The 2022 Clay County Fair is right around the corner, and leaders expect this year to be bigger and better than before.

The fair is kicking off Thursday, March 31, and will run until Sunday, April 10.

On Tuesday morning, city leaders met to discuss traffic and safety concerns in order to keep everyone on the same page. “We want those that are attending, working and volunteering to enjoy themselves and our number one priority is to keep everyone safe,” Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said.

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This all comes as minds are on the tragic thrill ride accident in Orlando where a 14-year-old died after falling from a drop tower.

Action News Jax asked fair leaders during Tuesday’s press conference about the safety plans in place, specifically for the fair’s rides.

Andy Deggeller is the CEO of Deggeller Attractions.

“Right now, the ride inspectors are out here now,” Deggeller said. “They’ve been out here since yesterday. We’ve been setting up for over 10 days now. We’re going to do everything we can to keep the customers and our employees as safe as humanly possible.”

Deggeller said staff has gone through extensive training to learn about ride safety and proper techniques in dealing with the public. “We have a safety coordinator who is constantly on our midways walking around every second that we’re open, specifically looking for things that could be a hazard,” Deggeller said.

Hundreds of hours have been spent all year to make sure those 11 days are a success.

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You can expect new food, new rides, livestock, live concerts and all types of entertainment.

“As we can get closer to the opening day of the fair, it will be an exciting 11 days of fun-filled entertainment for our community,” Cook said.

The Clay County Fair was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic but made a return last year.

Organizers said they expect thousands to fill the area but are also reflecting back to when the first fair kicked off in 1987.

Howard Wanamaker is the Clay County Manager.

“There are many stories to be told about early Florida and farming as an American way of life,” Wanamaker said. “Clay County has deep agricultural roots and agriculture is still a leading industry here in North Florida, supporting many jobs in the economy. Please take some time to visit the exhibit halls, the early Florida Village and the Livestock Pavilion. You may discover a new passion for learning the history of Florida and what it was like for early families to settle here.”

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The Clay County Fair attracts people from all over Northeast Florida and Southern Georgia.

“If you want to see what the county is about, this is the place to be over the next couple of days,” Clay County Commissioner Wayne Bolla said. “We have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who make this happen every year. This is the high point of some of their whole year. this fair. This is probably the best fair in all of Florida.”

Fair leaders ask that you take day-of photographs of anybody in your party who may be considered vulnerable. This includes kids, the elderly, or anyone who may wander off.

This year zone signs will be placed up to easily identify your location if you get separated from your group.

Traffic is expected to be heavy, so you are asked to leave plenty of time to get to the fairgrounds. This comes as west of the fairgrounds is undergoing construction due to the Beltway project.

“Traffic historically backs up on State Road 16 during the fair, and we fully expect that again this year,” Cook said. “If you can go around the fairgrounds property to your destination, we strongly encourage you to find that alternate route.”

Prices are $10 for adults (13-59), and $7 for children (6-12) and seniors (60+). Admission is free for children age 5 and younger.

Cook said if you see something suspicious or dangerous, you can submit a tip to the SaferWatch app or find a CCSO deputy to make them aware.

Download the SaferWatch app for updates https://www.saferwatchapp.com/.