State fair increases security after fight, lack of mask wearing
The Alabama State Fair is tightening security measures after a fight broke out over the weekend. Birmingham Police confirmed that one person was taken into custody regarding the incident and one security guard suffered a minor injury on Saturday. Local law enforcement also verified that a deadly Sunday shooting in the Elyton Village Neighborhood of Birmingham was related to the earlier altercation at the fairgrounds. One person died in the Sunday shooting.
Though attendants were required to go through a metal detector, their personal belongings were not screened as thoroughly. Under the new safety protocols, minors 17 and under are required to be accompanied by an adult inside the fairgrounds. Many groups of minors enjoyed the fair unattended on Saturday evening.
The fair had already promised strict social distancing and mask wearing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Fairgoers waited to get their temperatures taken outside of the Birmingham Race Course event in a relatively distanced line. Early evening crowds in the fairgrounds were not overwhelming, but designated eating areas in the space were already filled with unmasked attendants.
Mark Lovell, the director of the fair, emphasized the fair’s safety plan in a previous interview with APR.
“We have put together a very detailed COVID-19 safety plan, which includes masks, social distancing, and temperature checks,” Lovell said.
Numerous fairgoers were unmasked outside of designated eating zones. Many more attendants wore their masks improperly. Lovell further stated that unmasked attendants would be punished swiftly.
“They’ll be asked to leave the premises. We have rules and they need to abide by them for everyone’s safety,” Lowell said.
Uncovered fairgoers were admitted to rides and sold concessions without opposition. One woman was waved through security at the fair’s entrance with her mask down.
Some workers at the event also disobeyed mask wearing guidelines. A few concession workers wore their facial coverings improperly as they served seemingly unbothered customers. The operator of a popular ride was unmasked as he swung fairgoers higher and higher into the air. One employee danced behind a fair float unmasked but quickly pulled his mask up upon realizing his photo was being taken.
Crowds grew as the evening drew on. Fairgoers were especially cramped around stages that showcased a magician and an escape artist. Neither of these entertainers wore facial coverings during their acts. Performers recruited unmasked audience members from the crowd on a couple occasions.
Separate parties sat shoulder to shoulder in the bleachers beneath these stages. They socialized and laughed at the performers’ punchlines. Birmingham police watched the crowd from a distance.
Ticket and ride lines simultaneously increased throughout the evening, with the space in between patrons steadily shrinking. Lovell also stated that 6 foot distances would be marked in waiting areas. No such labels were evident.
Lovell expects 40,000 to 50,000 attendants over the course of the nine day event that runs through Sunday night.
The exit area from the fair was empty in the late evening. The parking lot filled as the sun set over the fairgrounds.