Big crowds, heavy traffic: Fair officials warn guests to be patient, leave early for a good time

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 3/30/22

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Despite all the planning ahead of this year’s Clay County Agricultural Fair, there wasn’t any way officials could downplay the likelihood of lengthy traffic delays getting …

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Big crowds, heavy traffic: Fair officials warn guests to be patient, leave early for a good time

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Despite all the planning ahead of this year’s Clay County Agricultural Fair, there wasn’t any way officials could downplay the likelihood of lengthy traffic delays getting into the fairgrounds.

State Road 16 only has two lanes for nearly four miles on both sides of the fairgrounds. Added with the construction zone for the First Coast Expressway one mile west of the fair, public safety and fair association officials were trying to get ahead of what’s expected to be a major headache – and backup – for the next 11 days.

“We’ve got a lot of people coming to the fair,” said Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook. “That’s a good thing. Traffic and crowds will be heavy. Leave yourself plenty of time to get in and get out. And most important, be patient.”

The crowd for last month’s Scottish Games was less than one-fourth of what’s expected on a daily basis and traffic was backed up to Penney Farms from the west and Clay High from the east. Many patrons complained it took more than 90 minutes to get into the parking lot.

The same delays came with the Strawberry Fest earlier this month at the fairgrounds. County Commission Chairman Wayne Bolla said there already are plans to improve some of the roads in the southern end of the county, but it won’t come in time to solve this year’s dilemma.

“Take your time,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult getting in here; it’s going to be hard getting out. Hopefully next year we will be able to move people around better.”

Obviously, the best way to avoid long lines is to arrive at non-peak times. Don’t expect to leave at 6:30 p.m. and expect to be in your seat for a 7 p.m. show in the Cattleman’s Arena – even if you live close to the fairgrounds.

“There’s going to be traffic’ there’s going to be delays,” said Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward. “The sheriff’s office works very diligently on moving the traffic in, getting them parked and getting them out.

“We have an incident management team – fire rescue, fair association, sheriff’s office and emergency management – that is managing this event as we go to make sure it’s safe for our folks. Please pay attention to your local media. Please pay close attention to Facebook – Clay County Fairgrounds and Clay County Emergency Management – pages. We’ll be putting those announcements out as we go.”

The sheriff’s office will maintain a visible presence until the fair closes at the end of the day on April 10. Cook said they will work to move the throngs of cars and people as quickly, and as safely, as possible.

“Pay attention to the signage and the deputies,” she said.

And be patient. County manager Howard Wanamaker said this year’s fair will be worth the wait.

“Here in Clay County, we share many passions – a passion for the outdoors, nature, adventure, family and agriculture,” he said. “The Clay County Agricultural Fair wraps all of these into a fantastic 11-day event. In addition to food and entertainment and rides, there are many stories to be told about early Florida and farming as an American way of life. Clay County has deep agriculture roots.

“Please take some time to visit the Exhibit Hall, the Early Florida Village and the livestock before you leave. You may discover a new passion for learning the history of Florida and what it was like for early families to settle here.”

Without the traffic.

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