TAMPA, Fla. (TBO.com) — Local students will notice some differences during the free Student Day at the Florida State Fair next year.
For starters, anyone younger than 18 will not be admitted for free after 6 p.m. without an adult. All day long, middle- and high-schoolers will be required to show school ID badges to get in. Surveillance cameras will monitor the fairgrounds, and kids who behave inappropriately will be detained until a parent comes to get them — instead of being kicked out of the fair.
The new rules and procedures were compiled after meetings with law enforcement, fair and school officials and community members in response to the chaos that erupted after 6 p.m. at this year’s Student Day. Throngs of young people stampeded through the fairgrounds in a practice called “wilding.”
The melee ended with a dozen arrests and the ejection of 99 young people. One of them, 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III, was struck and killed by a vehicle as he tried to run across nearby Interstate 4.
The boy’s father, Andrew Joseph Jr., spoke about the need for a safer Student Day at a Hillsborough County School Board meeting Tuesday. He suggested the school district call it “Family Day” and make free admission rewards-based.
“My child is dead,” he said. “This is real life. Change the name, include the parents and make it a reward system.”
The fair is still about eight months away — it starts on Feb. 5, 2015 — but the changes were approved last month by the Florida State Fair Authority board of directors.
The free Student Day hasn’t been renamed, but fair authority Executive Director Charles Pesano said the changes are in line with what Joseph is seeking — more of a family atmosphere.
File Photo Credit 970 WFLA/E. Youker