Animal Contact Restricted at county, state fairs
There’ll be no pelts to pet at the state fair this year.
Petting zoos are out, part of a number of changes in the interest of public health just announced by N.C. State Fair officials to guard against the kind of E. coli outbreak that sickened some visitors to last year’s annual event.
The Moore County Fair, which begins Aug. 28 this year, made those changes long ago.
“Back when they had the big outbreak seven or eight years ago, we went ahead and made ours a non-contact barn with a hand-washing station,” said Mike Doby, treasurer of the Moore County Fair Board.
Following recommendations of a study commission, visitors will be barred entirely from the main livestock building — the Kelley Building — for all but a few days of the state fair in Raleigh. Barriers will now keep animals well out of touching range.
The 2011 outbreak was at least the third in recent years, according to Food Safety News. Other incidents in 2004 and 2006 also sickened fair goers.
The state fair several years ago installed public hand-washing stands and set them up around the petting zoo and other animal exhibits. It also double-fenced bedding areas to help keep people out. Last year, 27 people were infected, and the infection was traced to animal contact.
“At the state fair, in their petting zoo, some animals were infected,” Doby said. “When kids went in there touching them and then put their hands in their mouth they were getting E. coli. We’ve never had any cases at all.”
In 2004, when new state regulations required all fairs either make changes to their petting areas or else keep people from touching animals at all, the county fair chose the stricter route: no touching, no petting.
“You could have a contact barn with measures like hand-washing stations and things like that, but we felt like we would be taking a risk,” Doby said. “As small a county fair as we are, we just decided to go to the non-contact.”
Until last year’s troubles, the N.C. State Fair had kept its petting zoo.
“It worked for a few years, but last year they had some problems,” Doby said. “We don’t have any at our county fair. We have had no incidents at all, but that’s why went to a non-contact barn – to try to prevent it.”
In another move, the state fair made location changes for food vendors that the county fair put in place years back.
“Our food vendors are well away from the barn,” Doby said. “We post signs telling people to wash their hands and stuff like that.”
Fair manager Robert Gordon says the Moore County Fair focuses on farmers, food and fun. “This is the 66th annual fair, and we have Smokey Mountain Amusements bringing rides,” Gordon said. “Billy Clark owns it, and he’s actually a North Carolinian.”
Gordon has known Clark a long time.
“We open Tuesday night, Aug. 28,” he said. “Tuesday through Friday we open at 5 p.m. and on Saturday at 3 p.m. I can’t say exactly the number of rides, but usually it is around 21 to 22 that they bring in.”
The county fair is a lot more than ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.
“We have commercial vendors, and our barn is run by the Growing Farmers 4-H Club with all sorts of livestock,” he said. “At the back section of the barn we have an exhibit area. They actually have solicited local vendors — anything from crafts, soaps, stained glass — anything Moore Countian.”
The Boy Scouts will be at the fair. Gordon is a Scoutmaster, and his troop runs a Coke booth.
“It is our largest fund-raiser,” Gordon said. “It allows us to be able to pay for troop expenses during the year.”
The county fair will also feature local wrestlers, gospel singing and other entertainment.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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