As opening day drew near, the Florida Strawberry Festival added several last-minute changes to help attendees feel safer than ever.
The Florida Strawberry Festival continues to add more improvements and amenities to the grounds in order to keep attendees safe while they visit the annual event.
Festival President Paul Davis sat down with the Observer for an in-depth look at all of the COVID-19 precautions the organization has put in place prior to the gates opening. However, the situation is fluid and several new additions were added between press days to further the festival’s fight to keep people safe.
“Every day, we are going up with something new that we want to add, that we want to change,” Davis said. “It’s a continuous process and you’re going to see that throughout the festival as we identify new areas we want to address.”
One of the recent changes was that the festival purchased two new bathrooms to help lessen the amount of people standing in line to use the facilities across the park. Dividers were also installed in the men’s restrooms to separate the urinals and plexiglass was added to the top for further protection. The festival added as many no-touch elements to the restrooms as it could — changing more than 400 units — to eliminate as much contact with high-touch areas around the grounds as possible.
Davis requested his Midway provider have every person who works for them sit through a training session that addresses sanitization, social distancing and the many policies in place to keep riders safe as they buckle into attractions across the Midway. The staff has gone through similar trainings in the past, but they all had a refresher that focuses specifically on how the Florida Strawberry Festival expects to go above and beyond for its guests.
A massive purchase for the festival came in the form of a sanitizing tunnel. The smart fogging sanitizing tunnel relies on motion detection, fog and UV light, which “atomizes a sanitizing solution and produces a dry fog. Sanitizes without leaving any residue.”
The tunnel works with FDA and EPA approved COVID-19 solutions and utilizes a temperature reading on top of its two-step sanitizing process. The company says that it limits COVID-19 transmissions and instantly sanitizes any clothes that walk through it.
The tunnel has been set up under a tent just inside of Gate 1. It’s not mandatory for anyone to use, but Davis said he wanted to make sure it was available for those who want the extra protection.
“This is state-of-the-art technology,” Davis said. “Several of us were walking through it the other day to test it out and I have to tell you it’s really amazing what it can do. It’s completely safe to use — you know they say that fog is safe enough to eat if you wanted to — and it just helps you have that extra layer of safety, of peace of mind, as you go enjoy your day at the festival.”
The festival also has a new policy in place in order to help local youth not feel pressured to show their animals if they begin to come down with symptoms. During a meeting with the agriculture committee Tuesday evening, the festival decided it would have a policy in place so if someone begins to develop symptoms, comes in contact with someone who has tested positive or whose family has to quarantine, they can still show the animal they’ve worked with for months.
“We aren’t gong to penalize a kid if they’re sick,” Davis said. “That’s just not going to happen. So what we’re going to do is if a student has to quarantine, we will allow them to have another approved student show their animal for them. It has to be one of the students that has already been approved by us. We make sure these kids have good grades and are not in trouble, so they can’t just pick anyone. I would recommend they choose someone that’s showing from a different class so that they aren’t relying on their competition to help them out. But that really shouldn’t be a problem. We have a lot of great kids who have worked so hard on this. The last thing we want is for them to feel like they have to come and show their animal despite the fact that they feel sick because they’re scared of all that hard work going down the drain.”
Davis added that as the festival progresses, there are sure to be many more sudden alterations and purchases to help attendees feel safer than ever.