Fairgrounds Festival: Safety questions raised over big event

Fairgrounds spokesperson: Safety is top concern
Posted at 8:02 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 20:15:36-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Tuesday's announcement that the Indiana State Fairgrounds will host a five-week carnival with rides and food from late-July to early-September is raising some questions.

This year's Indiana State Fair is canceled due to the pandemic, but the "Fairgrounds Fun Park" will be on the same site and feature some of the same attractions that make the fair so popular. There will be over 50 rides and more than 40 food vendors, according to the press release from North American Midway Entertainment—the Indiana-based company that will run the carnival.

So, how can the carnival operate when the State Fair can't and when numerous Indiana county fairs been canceled or scaled back and will take place without rides?

The difference is in the complexity of the events, according to State Fair Communications Director Sharon Smith. "The Indiana State Fair is a complex event that attracts over 850,000 guests, including vendors, exhibitors, sponsors, performers and more, spread throughout a 200+ acre campus," said Smith. "Due to this complexity and the impact of COVID-19 on our event, the 2020 State Fair was canceled in June. We are thankful that our partners at North American Midway Entertainment have found a way to provide a simplified event at our facility this summer.

"We will follow recommendations from state public health authorities, and North American Midway Entertainment has implemented stringent preventative measures proactively put in place for the Fairgrounds Fun Park event," said Smith.

The state, however, wants to be sure. At a COVID-19 news conference Wednesday, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box was asked about the fairgrounds carnival.

"We are still in discussions about that and I'll be talking with the CEO of the fairgrounds as to what the plans are out there," said Box.

Fairgrounds Fun Park will take place from July 31 to September 7, from noon to 9 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.

"We are excited to bring much-needed fun and excitement to Indiana for the summer," Danny Huston, North American Midway Entertainment CEO, said. "We are uniquely positioned as an Indiana company to provide this experience for Hoosiers, and we are so excited to bring back the sounds, smells, and sights of summer during this challenging year."

The company says it will "incorporate COVID-19 procedures for guests and staff at the Fairgrounds Fun Park, including employing a full-time onsite "COVID-19 Customer and Employee Safety Director" who will ensure all components of its program are followed."

Additional protocols include:

  • Employee handwashing and equipment disinfecting
  • A series of hand sanitizing stations throughout the Park
  • Contactless payment options
  • Plexiglass shields to protect food
  • Additional sanitizing wipe downs of rides and games

"We are mindful of the current pandemic and will adhere to state and local guidelines and practices to ensure the safety of all guests, staff, and vendors," Huston said