Those attending this year’s Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile will notice a few changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including three extra days of festivities.
After initially moving this year’s dates to accommodate a conflict with the Mid-South Fair in Southaven, Miss., Executive Director Josh Woods said the Greater Gulf State Fair is again planning an Oct. 30 opening after officials at the Mid-South Fair decided to cancel the event.
“The Mid-South Fair wasn’t able to open, so we moved our dates back,” Woods said. “It’s going to be longer than normal with 13 days of the fair.”
This year’s event will run from Friday, Oct. 30 to Sunday, Nov. 15. The fair was initially slated to end Nov. 8. The added time will also allow The Grounds to close on Mondays and Tuesdays during the run to allow staff to clean the premises.
“We normally do a straight 10-day run,” Woods said.
Protocols will require all those in attendance to wear a mask or face covering and the attendance will be capped at 7,000. To put that in perspective, Woods said on the busiest fair days last year, attendance ran about 32,000 with an average daily attendance of about 11,000. The cap means each attendee will have between 40 and 49 square feet of space. Those unable to wear a face covering due to medical reasons or those who have other medical issues will be given a red pin to wear to let others know to keep at least six feet of distance.
In addition, fair officials are opening three entrances, where normally there is only one and everything will be outside or in an open-air barn, Woods said.
Fair officials have developed an application to let prospective visitors know when The Grounds has reached capacity this year. Woods said those wishing to attend could also check the fair’s social media pages for updates.
Woods said the pandemic has “wreaked havoc” on the carnival business. For instance, North American Midway Entertainment, the vendor the fair uses, normally does 125 fairs annually. This year, Woods said, the company is down to three, including Mobile’s festivities.
“They went down to Miami earlier this year, set up every ride and 15 minutes before they were set to open they had to pull the plug,” Woods said.
In addition to the Greater Gulf State Fair, the entertainment company has confirmed appointments from the Mississippi State Fair and a fair in Pennsylvania, Woods said.
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