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'Don't come to the fair and try to cause trouble,' leader warns after 200 in fights

Fairgoers must be accompanied by adult if under 18
Posted at 6:09 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-22 23:56:56-05

Teens brawling in the middle of the South Florida Fair Saturday night led to five arrests and even more ejections at an event billed as family friendly. It’s still on the mind of Victoria Chouris, the fair's president and CEO.

"I personally don't understand it," Chouris said. "I mean, this event is here for fun. It's for people to be able to come and enjoy what they have here. My message is don't come. Don't come to the fair and try to cause trouble. Don't ruin it for the rest of the families that are here."

Victoria Chouris, the South Florida Fair's president and CEO, says the event is designed to be family friendly. Jan. 22, 2024
Victoria Chouris, the South Florida Fair's president and CEO, says the event is designed to be family friendly.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office plans to increase deputies at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

This follows the situation that involved "approximately 200 people that were hostile and unruly," according to spokeswoman Teri Barbera. Four minors and one man was arrested during incidents at the fairgrounds Saturday night.

A similar event occurred last year that ended with four arrested and dozens kicked out. An original curfew targeting teens went into effect in 2022.

Last year the rule stated no one under the age of 18 was allowed after 8 p.m. without a guardian over the age of 21 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Chouris said they decided to be more proactive this year and push the curfew time for unaccompanied teenagers back to 7 p.m. Teens after that time have to purchase a ride wristband at the gate. Chouris said is intended to ensure teens are at the fair to ride the rides rather than cause trouble.

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Parents like Marissa Locke weighed in on Saturday's brawl.

"Anytime you get a bunch of people like this together, you know, at nighttime and kids, I feel like something is going to happen," she said.

The Locke family was still out to enjoy the fair on Monday. Marissa's reaction was similar to others who called this past weekend's violence senseless.

The Locke family were at the South Florida Fair on Monday. Jan. 22, 2024
The Locke family were at the South Florida Fair on Monday.

"It's just stupid, I mean, come here and have a good time and stuff," Locke said.

Moving forward, Devin Locke encouraged teens to think twice before starting trouble.

"Would you embarrass yourself?" he said. "Would your parents be disappointed or your grandmother be disappointed? Treat others as you'd like to be treated."

A large security presence helps ensure that good time. Part of that includes at least 150 Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies.

"That is a lot of deputies," Chouris said. "You know, we have more deputies on these fairgrounds on a weekend night than there are probably throughout the county, so, yes, we are going to increase that because it's not fair to them to have to deal with this kind of thing during the fair."

Chouris said there is no record or evidence of any stabbing happening at the fair that night, despite what the sheriff's office said two teens told deputies when they showed up at Wellington Regional Hospital with injuries.

"We don't know that there was a stabbing here at the fairgrounds," Chouris said. "We have no reports that that happened. It was reportedly stated when they were being treated for the stab wound. Those people could've been anywhere, so we really don't know that that happened at the South Florida Fair."

The one adult arrested was Thivendra Naidoo, 37, of Lake Worth Beach, who is facing misdemeanor charges of trespassing without a warning and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence after returning to the fairgrounds.

Around 8:30 p.m., he had been kicked off the property, according to the arrest report. While resisting arrest, Naidoo landed on his back and the deputy on top of him.

He was taken to Wellington Regional Hospital for treatment and then to the county jail. During his first appearance Sunday, he was ordered released on his own recognizance with arraignment set for 9:45 a.m. Feb. 23.