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South Florida Fair setting standard for operating during pandemic

'It's the new norm but it's not something we'll ever get used to'
Posted at 11:20 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 23:20:06-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — At the moment, the South Florida Fair is under a microscope.

"Absolutely, it is all eyes in the industry are on this fair right now," Marla Calico said.

Calico is with the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. She's at the fair to observe how the South Florida Fair operates safely during a pandemic.

"We talk about how things have been spread out and distanced, moved outside," she said. "People want to know all of the details of this, so they're watching."

Calico said there are 1,100 fairs ranging from very small county fairs to the largest state fair -- the Great Minnesota Get Together.

She said because of COVID-19, the devastation to the industry is off the charts. During a non-coronavirus year, fairs are raking in the money.

"$4.67 B -- that's a capital B -- billion dollars of economic activity in the United States alone," she said.

What about attendance?

"The attendance of the top 90 fairs alone in 2018 was more than three times the combined attendance of all NFL games that were held that year," she said.

Folks walking the midway are coping with having to wear masks and constantly wash their hands.

"It's the new norm, but it's not something we'll ever get used to," Lakisha Maxinbell said.

Calico said what the South Florida Fair is doing is creating a map for other fairs to follow.

"I've already had a state fair manager call me and say, 'Can you get a spec on the Coca-Cola stage shades, because I need to do that at my fair,'" she said.

The fair typically doesn't release attendance numbers until it's over. But WPTV was told fair organizers are happy with their numbers and the way folks have complied with their safety protocols.