Men and women in shorts and T-shirts that shout “THINK SAFETY” fussed over the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Himalaya and various roller-coasters in the manner of helicopter parents.
“There’s always something to do,” a supervisor reminded an employee.
After all, they had to have their children ready for Thursday afternoon’s opening of the 65th Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition.
An early release for South Florida students feeds right into the fair’s 3 p.m. opening and $6 general admission tickets for the first day. Elephant ears, bumper cars and screams abound until April 10. You can also enjoy The Royal Hanneford Circus and an 800- to 1,000-pound butter sculpture. The Procrastinators music group, too. Pig races.
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Thursday is the first of a number of days for which the 700 employees of North American Midway Entertainment, operator of the games and 95 rides, have been preparing for a month.
“Because we have time. That’s the only reason we’re here so long,” said Scooter Korek, North American’s vice president of client relations. “This is our very first big spot of the season. Usually, we don’t need this much time.”
Not that they don’t love the event. Korek gushed about the Youth Fair’s administration, pointing out the number of awards won from the International Association of Fairs & Expositions. And there are worse places for North American’s 400-person traveling party to be in February and March than Miami (they hire another 300 people on-site for working ticket booths, games and rides).
That’s not the only thing they love about the location, location, location.
This was built as a fairgrounds. This was built exactly for this type of presentation.
North American Midway Entertainment vice president of client relations Scooter Korek
“This was built as a fairgrounds,” he said of the Tamiami Park location. “This was built exactly for this type of presentation,” said Korek, a Bobby Orr fan from Calgary, Alberta.
He pointed around the area of a few picnic tables and rows of trailers for work and living. “We’re center-serving — we have this whole center area, and all the services come from the center and spread out to the midway. And that makes it unique in the fair industry.”
“The other 142 locations we go to, most fairs are run in parking lots, which are not built for fairgrounds,” Korek said. “Some of our smaller dates, we play some church dates, which are fields and parking lots. For serviceability, this is a unique fairgrounds. It’s very customer-friendly because everything is behind the line and services are way out there.”
The obvious question from most parents in these more cautious parenting times: How often are the rides tested once they’re constructed?
“We have two safety directors within our company who are here. We also hire an outside company. And we also have the state inspectors. So there are three levels of testing,” North American’s director of communications Amy Girton said. “On a daily basis, each of the ride operators goes in and checks the ride. They have safety checkpoints they go through daily.”
If you go
What: Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition
Where: Tamiami Park, Southwest 107th Avenue and 24th Street
When: March 17 through April 10, except March 28 and 29, April 4 and 5. 3 p.m. opening Mar. 17, 18, 30, 31, April 1, 6 and 7. Noon all other days.
Admission: $6 general admission Thursday. For other days, $10 online or at Sedano Supermarkets and $14 at the fairgrounds.
For more information: 786-315-5300.