The Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair begins today, Thursday, November 6th, and runs through Sunday, November 17th. Once again, thousands of Northeast Floridians will eat different iterations of fried food on a stick, ogle perfect specimens of pigs and cows, and—if you are brave—take on the midway rides. Any time a fair operator sets up a temporary ride, each ride must be inspected by members of the Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection. Without an approval by Fair Rides Inspectors, a fair ride is not permitted to be used by the public. Before the Revelry, safety inspections at Jacksonville Fair. In contrast, local establishments such as the inflatable amusement operation, Big Air (which is currently the subject of four lawsuits in Duval County (Big Air Was A Big Danger), are not subject to ongoing inspections.
Still, state inspections are not absolute guaranties that all rides at the fair are safe. The Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection has only 15 inspectors for the entire state. Obviously, they cannot identify every unsafe ride at every fair in Florida. Last month, 5 people were injured on a ride at the North Carolina State Fair when a ride called the Vortex caused them to drop 20 to 30 feet to the ground. That ride, like all others at the North Carolina State Fair, were subjected to state inspections before the fair opened; the problems with the ride came up after the state inspection! There is nothing that would prevent similar problems for rides at the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair.
Again, just because a ride is operating at a fair does not mean that it is safe at the time you or your children are attempting to ride it. Here are some general suggestions for lowering the risk of getting hurt:
- Make sure kids are supervised at all times so they don’t wander into the path of a motorized ride. Make sure your child exits the ride quickly and is out of the path of the ride before it starts again.
- Make sure you follow all age and height requirements, and obey all safety rules. Straps need to be secured, stay seated at all times (if the ride has a seat), and keep hands and feet inside cars at all times.
- If you notice something “off” about the ride, its operator, or anything else, avoid the ride and notify the event organizers.
- On inflatable rides, be sure small children are bouncing at a time set aside for them. Jumping with bigger kids can cause accidents.