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California State Fair Unveils New Safety And Security Measures Ahead Of Opening

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - After being canceled for the last two years due to the pandemic, the fun is back at the California State Fair but with a focus on safety.

California State Fair CEO Rick Pickering has a big claim ahead of the Fair's big return.

"The safest place you can be and the safest square mile in Sacramento this summer is the California State Fair," he says.

After a pandemic-related hiatus, the Fair will be back at the Cal Expo this coming Friday with new safety and security measures. With covid numbers rising in the capital region, Pickering says there will be an added emphasis on prevention.

"There's more handwashing stations, there's more opportunities for hand sanitizer there's more things being wiped down after you touch it," he explains.

New security measures will also be implemented. The Fair has a clear bag policy similar to those seen at sporting events like the Sacramento Kings, Rivercats and Republic FC.

"I don't have the security guard digging through your purse," says Fair Police Chief Craig Walton. "They can just pick it up and take a look at it. And the second thing is that it speeds up the line.

If fairgoers are arriving via rideshare, a bag check for $5 will be offered. Fair workers will also be passing out clear bags for attendees to use as replacements if they did not bring their own.

But one other safety policy comes on the heels of violence at other capital region events and major events across the country. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the Fair there will be a curfew aimed at unaccompanied minors. Any minor trying to enter the park after 6:00 p.m. without supervision will not be allowed into the park. If an unaccompanied minor is already in the park after 6:00, they will be allowed to stay until close.

"A lot of times we have problems towards the end of the fair where kids don't get picked and they're just left in the parking lot after hours and are trying to find a ride home," Walton explains.

"We believe that our approach now is gonna be the same," Walton says of his department's improved approach towards fairgoers. "My goal is for us to have less arrests than we did in 2019."

That year only two people were arrested in the 18 days. But community activists worry the curfew could have adverse effects.

"This is a great solution in a sense because you are eliminating a piece of the problem but you're not eliminating the whole problem," says youth leader Tyler McClure.

"This isn't strategic planning," Voice of the Youth founder Berry Accius adds. "This is throwing something out there hoping it sticks."

One of the primary concerns is the message sent about what kind of demographics are coming to the expo on weekend days that aren't on weekdays as well as the potential marginalizing of those without the means to arrive at the park with supervision in the specified timeframe.

"If you're telling me I have to have a parent with me but my mom is at work all the time or I don't have a father figure in the household or my grandma is only able to drop me off or I have to catch the bus because nobody's here, then they're gonna rise up and cause havoc," McClure mentions.

Accius himself worries that just because youths are being barred from coming in later doesn't mean they'll leave earlier.

"They're still gonna hang out," says Accius. "If you come in earlier they're still going to hang out. "

He also says that in the absence of community leaders and volunteers to help out in the late evening hours, kids may still get themselves into trouble.

"If you don't have people that they recognize, they respect, that they know -- 'that's my football coach or that's my mentor or I was in his program or he works at my school' -- you're gonna have these kids doing whatever they're gonna do," Accius says.

Chief Walton says that the Department did consult with some youth advocacy groups in the area, and support for the curfew was reached by a consensus.

"It was unanimous including the emails on the public side were all positive," said Walton.

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