FAIRLEA, W.Va. — Entering the State Fair of West Virginia will look somewhat different this year.
State Fair CEO Kelly Collins told MetroNews Friday they plan to set up metal detectors at the front entrance in Fairlea when the event returns Aug. 11-20.
“It was a decision that we didn’t take likely, but it was an easy decision,” Collins said.
The move is being made out of an abundance of caution in response to mass shootings across the country. Collins said it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“You can watch the news on any given day and see an interview with someone saying ‘I never thought it could happen here’ but we unfortunately live in a time where it can happen anywhere,” she said. “As fair planners, it’s our job to help ensure safety so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Collins said the fair typically draws in large crowds every year, making it a potential target for a possible mass shooting incident.
“We have about 160,000 people that come through the gates,” she said. “I know that bad guys are going to find a way to do bad things, but if our metal detectors can help deter or slow down somebody with bad intentions, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
The process is being referred to as “an open gate system.”
“You can actually leave items in your pockets, so you don’t have to take off your jewelry or get your keys out of your pockets,” Collins said. “We’re worried about safety, but we also want people to enjoy their experience.”
Fair organizers are working with State Police, private security and company officials that they rented the metal detectors from to ensure a smooth process.
Weapons will not be allowed on the fair grounds. Large bags will be subject to search.
Flo Rida, Cody Johnson and Zach Bryan will be among the musical acts to perform at the fair. Collins said their concert venue will have a second metal detector.
“You’ll walk through the metal detector at the main gate and then at the concert, we will have laws and bag checks in that location as well just as an added layer of security since that’s a lot of people at one spot at one time,” she said.
There will be a new fair food contest, agriculture events including the popular live stock show as well as arts and crafts.
Collins said they’re working with the Greenbrier County Health Department to decide whether or not to continue offering COVID-19 vaccines and/or testing as the pandemic continues.
The event was canceled in 2020 and brought back in 2021.