It's fair time in Clay County. Be safe, be patient.
Lucy the T-Rex will be at the Clay County Fair.
So will a butter sculpture display and, of course, the kid's pedal tractor pulls.
The fair is expected to attract 120,000-plus people from Thursday through April 9 at the Clay County Agricultural Fairgrounds, 2497 Florida 16 W.
The day before, county officials had advice, updates and warnings for everyone attending.
Up front, expect heavy traffic heading to the fairgrounds west of Green Cove Springs that can jam up for hours on weekends and before some live events, Sheriff Michelle Cook said. She advised people to get the SaferWatch Appon their phone for traffic, weather and safety alerts as well as a direct line to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
"We've trained for everything from injuries to missing people and everything in between, so we are prepared when it comes to your safety and security," Cook said. "Please, please bring your patience. Plan to come early. I will tell you right now: Traffic will be slow on Florida 16, but we will keep traffic moving. This is an 11-day event."
And remember: Clay County has a fire rescue aid station at the fairgrounds in association with the Orange Park Medical Center, Public Safety Director John Ward said.
"We have been working with the fair staff on what their roles and responsibilities are in various incidents — missing kids, injuries or anything along those lines," Ward said. "We are prepared with staffing to respond accordingly on injuries or anything along those lines."
The fair has the usual assortment of rides, plus the Barnyard Nursery in the Early Florida Village, a fireworks display at 10 p.m. Friday and Dennis Lee, the Pink Cowboy. There will be livestock shows and all sorts of agricultural displays. On Thursday through Sunday, then from April 6 to 9, there will be live concerts. And there will be five new rides this year, officials said.
Cook advised people who normally use Florida 16, an east-west connecter between Starke, Green Cove Springs and St. Johns County, to use alternate routes if they are not going to the fair. If they have to, use the Safer Watch app to learn about traffic.
"Florida 16 will be very heavy with traffic, but we will keep it moving," Cook said. Extra electronic traffic signs have been added to Florida 16 to alert drivers to issues. She also advised families to take a fresh photo of their children before they enter the fairgrounds in case a child gets lost.
Officials were asked about ride safety, specifically after a fair employee was hospitalized after being trapped in a ride for about 15 minutes at last year's event. Clay County Agricultural Executive Director Tasha Hyder said the rides go through state inspection, which was underway as they spoke to reporters Wednesday.
"These rides will not open unless they are passed by state inspectors," Hyder said. "It was just an unfortunate accident that happened, and a lot of safety protocols were bypassed by the individual. We are here to have a good time, and we make it as safe as possible."
Fair hours vary depending on the day:
- 2 to 11 p.m. Thursday.
- 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
- 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.
- 4 to 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
- Noon to 11 p.m. Wednesday.
- 4 to 11 p.m. April 6.
- 10 a.m. to midnight April 7 and 8.
- 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 9, the final day.
Admission at the gate is $12 for adults, $8 for children and seniors, and free for those under 5.
For the full fair schedule, concert schedule and ticket discounts, go to claycountyfair.org.