From Hawaii to Delaware, all across America, state fairs showcase their best – from well-groomed heifers to big name entertainment and wild amusement rides.
Fairs are places where people from all walks of life, with varied preferences and habits, stroll the midway. Some are looking for environmentally friendly activities, while others are testing their limits with fried foods, sugar highs and daredevil rides.
As the Kansas State Fair explores the issue of cutting back smoking at the fair, The Hutchinson News contacted every other state in America to see how each stood with the growing trend to curb smoking.
More than 15 state fairs have implemented outdoor smoking restrictions. For some states it took legislation, as in the case of the Delaware State Fair. According to George E. Scuse Jr., the state fair has a no smoking policy which complies with the state law. He noted that Delaware is a smoke-free state and its residents understand that. They obey the law which has been in effect since 2002.
Here are how some state fairs deal with the smoking issues:
The Alaska State Fair implemented its policy in 2011 in an effort to create a healthy, family friendly environment, said Dean Phipps, director of marketing and communications for the Alaska State Fair.
The fair has seven designated areas, including a couple next to alcohol venues, he said.
The state of Alaska does have a law regarding smoking on public property, but the Alaska State Fair is on private property, thus could allow smoking. Nevertheless, said Phipps, the fair chose to curb smoking before the state even implemented the legislation.
“People found smoking offensive,” Phipps said, noting that several cities, along with businesses, began implementing no-smoking policies several years ago. “It’s amazing how little reaction there has been compared to what you might think.”
Located in Palmer, population 7,000, the Alaska fair sees more than 300,000 people annually, Phipps said. It has not affected attendance.
Fairgoers have policed the policy themselves, along with the fair’s security.
“If people are reminded, they will put it out,” he said, later adding “It’s been pretty successful.”
Florida State Fair
Since the state wide smoking ban went into effect in 2013 prohibiting smoking in buildings there has been no smoking at the state fair held in Tampa. Smoking is permitted in designated areas and the ruling has not hurt attendance, according to a spokesperson.
Hawaii State Fair
The annual state fair is held in the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. It implemented a smoking policy which does not permit smoking on the fairgrounds, but does have designated smoking areas, according Andrew Chang, with the fair.
“The designated smoking areas are marked as no smoking areas,” said Chang. “ We treat e-cigarettes the same, they are not allowed except in the designated areas.”
Illinois State Fair
The smoking ban “went over phenomenal in our state,” said Kristi Jones, with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Helping its success was signage.
Indiana State Fair
For almost a decade Indiana has enforced a strict state law which prohibits smoking 8 feet from a doorway, according to Doug Huntsinger, executive producer of the fair. Their smoke-free fair permits smoking at designated stations which are marked on a map.
Imposing the rules is never an issue, not when they have state police on the grounds to do the enforcing. Nor has the law hurt attendance at the fair.
“All employees are aware,” he said. If someone is seen smoking they are just politely asked to go to the smoking station. “It just takes training over time.”
North American Midway Entertainment, the traveling amusement park that sets up at their fair, also complies with the rules. Not only do they abide by the rules of the fair where they working, North American Midway has their own rules which they enforce, according to Amy Gerton, spokesperson for North American.
“Employees are not permitted to smoke on the midway,” Gerton said. “We do set up a tent away from the midway where employees can take a break and smoke.”
North American Midway Entertainment brings the amusement rides, food vendors and games to the Kansas State Fair.
Nevada hasn’t had a state fair since it was canceled in 2011, but Carson City revived the 136-year tradition in 2014. Moreover, they made it largely smoke free, said Fair Manager Susan Taylor.
Taylor, who helped with several county fairs in California, said the Nevada fair is modeled after those fairs, as well as the California State Fair, all of which have designated smoking areas.
She noted regulating it can be difficult, but staff and board members tell those smoking to move to an area or put it out if they see them, she said. She also added having youth police smoking isn’t a good option either, as they came across pushy.
The four-day fair drew about 21,000 people its first year, she said. The event is unique from other fairs that, due to its unfenced 25 acres, it is free.
It would be difficult for a fair to go smoke free entirely, she said, adding that designated areas are a good compromise.
“You want everyone to be able to come,” she said. “You want to make combinations for everyone. To say no smoking at all – you’d lose some attendance.”
Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair
According to Steve Masters, executive director is entirely smoke free.
“We don’t have designated smoking areas on the grounds,” he said, adding it has been that way since the fair was revived about three years ago.
In Michigan, all interior facilities are smoke free, he said. The fair, however, carried the policy outside, as well.
There hasn’t been much backlash.
“There is no fine or anything,” he said. “We just simply say don’t smoke here and everyone is cool with that, and we truly don’t do that often. With so many children here and animals, it is not an issue we have.”
Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, Alabama
Scott Tindle, executive director of the fair, said they implemented a complete smoking ban in 2014 in an effort “to create the cleanest, safest, family friendly event in America.”
This year, however, fair-board members decided to create at least one smoking area.
“We didn’t have a problem with enforcement,” he said. “We feel like we could provide the amenity – reach a compromise that would allow them to smoke that wouldn’t impact our goals.”
Their policy is stiffer than some, however. If a fairgoer refuses to put out a cigarette, a police officer might ask them to leave. Tindle, however, said such a case has never materialized.
The 10-day fair draws about 150,000 guests.
“I think there is a trend,” he said, adding, “What we found is a majority of our guests, they were asking for this. We heard from a great deal of families. They wanted this cleaner, more family friendly environment.”
New Jersey State Fair
There is no smoking at this fair held in the Meadowlands in Rutherford. The policy is enforced. However, employees and vendors who stay on the grounds are permitted to smoke in their campers.
“This is New Jersey,” said Michel Tartaglione, fair spokesperson. “New Jersey and New Yorkers hate smokers.”
New York State Fair
Smoking is allowed on the fairgrounds in general areas that are permitted by New York State Law, according to Dave Bullard, with the New York Department of Agriculture. However, smoking is not allowed in the grassy area of Chevy Court or at the State Fair Grandstand. Ticket holders who wish to smoke must use a designated area away from the concert seats. Tobacco products will not be sold anywhere on the Fairgrounds.
Some still contemplating
Several fairs have considered a move, but haven’t gone as far as to limit smoking on the grounds.
Amanda Storment, the Kentucky State Fair’s communications chief, said board members explored designated smoking areas in the summer of 2014, but decided against it for now.
Tennessee State Fair Manager Scott Jones said his fair, which sees about 110,000 people, will have a smoke-free night this year.
“It is something to get people to warm up to it,” he said.
Jones said the fair became a nonprofit in 2010. They already do not allow workers to smoke during their duty, including carnival workers.
Moreover, he said, the Tennessee Titans and other sporting events are smoke-free. Eventually, he said, with the trend moving to smoke-free facilities, he could see his state fair considering the idea.
Meanwhile, Catherine Pappas, with the Big E – a six-state exposition based in Massachusetts – said they have a typical policy that most state fairs in America have implemented. The Big E doesn’t allow smoking in buildings, kiddie land or the main stage.
“Generally, we take a look at it every year, but we are so unusual here,” she said of North America’s fifth-largest fair. “We are so wide open.”