Even before the Boston Marathon bombing, officials at the Florida Strawberry Festival were taking steps to make Plant City’s signature event as safe as possible.
Now, those steps seem more important than ever.
General Manager Paul Davis said the festival’s newest security measures will come in the form of additional security cameras. Although he wouldn’t disclose their locations, the system will allow 24/7 monitoring throughout the festival fairgrounds and parking lots.
“It will help us in a lot of ways — not just for public safety but for security while the grounds are closed,” Davis said.
Since its inception, the Florida Strawberry Festival has grown from a small hometown event to one of the most recognized fairs in the country. More than 520,000 attended this year’s event. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, during which two explosives killed three and injured more than 100 people, Davis said festival officials will continue to examine closely their safety protocols.
“We take security very seriously,” he said. “It’s always a top priority.”
Each year, more than 100 officers from both the Plant City Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office are stationed throughout the grounds and at each of the 10 public entrances. Officers check large bags at the front gate and again at each concert gate.
Undercover officers also patrol the parking lots, pace the perimeter and walk the grounds. In the past, they have stopped people who were carrying guns without a license.
“They’re looking at the crowds before coming in,” Davis said. “We are trying to be proactive.”
In addition to the cameras and police presence, Davis said festival officials meet with local law enforcement to discuss safety protocols at least twice a year. The protocols are then reviewed about two weeks before the festival.
The festival grounds are less than two minutes away from South Florida Baptist Hospital’s emergency room, and an ambulance with emergency personnel is stationed outside the main gate.
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