With the start of the Mississippi State Fair two weeks away, officials gathered at the fairgrounds to ensure the public that the event will be safe.
The news conference, which came just months after a deadly shooting occurred at the fairgrounds during the Mississippi Mudbug Festival, featured a number of state and local officials outlining the steps being taken to ensure public safety.
“We are not going to let a few criminals get in the way. We will not let a few bad actors ruin the Mississippi State Fair,” said Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, whose office oversees the fairgrounds. “The Mississippi State Fair will be the safest place in the state.”
Among the new safety measures will be limited hours for unsupervised youth attendance, reductions in the number of entrance points and an increase in law enforcement personnel and coordination.
The fair closes between 10 p.m. and midnight, depending on the night of the week, and after 9 p.m. each night, fairgoers under the age of 21 must be accompanied by an adult over that age. Attendees may be required to present identification to verify their age. Gipson said in past years many incidents at the fair have been committed by teenagers late at night.
“The fairgrounds is not here to babysit youth, late at night, who may get into bad activity,” Gipson said. “If you’re underage, you need to come earlier.”
Additionally, there will be seven locations to enter the fairgrounds, with metal detectors and bag search stations at each site. The goal of these is to prevent any illegal weapons from making their way into the fair. However, the legal carry of firearms will be allowed, in accordance with state law.
There will also be video surveillance ongoing throughout the fairgrounds, as well as K-9 units in certain locations.
State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Ricky Davis said he has been working at the fair for nearly two decades, and he has encouraged his family to attend — something he would not have done unless he believed it will be safe.
“This is my seventeenth fair, and I can truly say that the plan that has been put together is the safest plan that I’ve ever been a part of,” Davis said.
A part of that plan is inter-agency and inter-department cooperation, on a scale that the fair’s Chief of Security Jimmy Herzog said has not been done before. Herzog and Gipson were hesitant to divulge specifics, but they did say the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson Police Department, Office of Capitol Police, Mississippi State Highway Patrol, Mississippi Fire Marshal, Mississippi Agriculture and Livestock Theft Bureau, Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Mississippi Office of Homeland Security are all involved in executing the fair’s safety plans. The highway patrol and sheriff’s office will both have mounted officers onsite.
“Everyone attending the state fair will feel safe,” Capitol Police Chief Bo Luckey said.
Jackson Police Chief James Davis, who opened and closed the event in prayer, said his office has been getting calls from across the state, and even from neighboring states, with concerns about coming to Jackson for the fair. Some worried the fair, or the city itself, may not be safe to visit.
“We at the Jackson Police Department are committed to providing the best possible public safety in and around the Mississippi State Fair,” Davis said.
The fair will run from Oct. 6 to Oct. 16, with the ribbon cutting on the first day taking place at 11 a.m. Admission and parking will be $5 each.
The fairgrounds recently hosted one of the national guard’s water distribution sites while the city was still under a boil-water notice. Gipson said they were honored to host those, and there are no concerns over water quality or access at the fair.
“We will have fresh water during the fair and we invite people to come,” Gipson said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)