2WTK: Are Fair Workers Background Checked?

6:00 PM, Oct 3, 2013   |    comments
NC State Fair, WRAL
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Winston-Salem, NC -- Instead of fun and games, it's a different spin on the fair. Police - arresting a sex offender on the job as a ride operator at the Oklahoma State Fair. Fair-going families didn't know William Chase was a registered sex offender. If police hadn't been tipped of this offender would've been in close proximity to kids every night.

"Why aren't they being screened better? Have our kids protected?" Oklahoman mom Laura Sommers asked.

North Carolina parents may be wondering the same thing about their midways and fairgrounds.
2 Wants To Know discovered no state law requires fairs run criminal background checks on employees. But Dixie Classic Fair Director David Sparks says every single employee working the Winston-Salem-based fair is screened anyway.

"It's as safe as any large event that they take them to, any festival in the area. In fact, it may be safer," Sparks said.

We checked with all the fairs around the area. Only a few have gotten back to us. Here's what we know:

The State Fair does not run background checks on the temporary fair workers like ticket sellers and exhibit hostesses. The fair relies on these people to volunteer their criminal history on the employment application. The company that runs the State Fair's rides hasn't released their policy yet.

At the Stokes County Ag Show only carnival workers are screened. The fair workers are volunteers and aren't screened. And the vendors, described as locals, are not screened either.

So we turned to an industry insider. John Strates heads Strates Shows, which runs the carnival for the Dixie Classic Fair. He said even if the fairs don't screen most carnival companies do. He says Background checks and drug tests help events like the Dixie Classic get good workers and protect the public.


"It's a family run show. My grandfather started it, and I'm here on the ground now. We just pretty much try to do the right thing," Strates said.

But background checks aren't fool proof. The Oklahoma company that hired the arrested ride operator required all employees be checked. They're still investigating what went wrong.

So what can you as a parent? Piedmont Parent send over the follow hints for keeping kids safe at the fair:

Getting lost

Older kids  should use a buddy system and make a plan of where to meet if you get separated. With younger kids, label their clothing, and make sure they know to identify what a police officer looks like - they need to know which adults are "safe" to approach if they get lost. Also Avoid the first night - it's the busiest night so you are more likely to get lost then.

Avoiding illness

Fair food - it's fun to try that deep-fried snickers and oreos but be sure to pace yourself. Wash hands thoroughly after visiting the petting zoo area - they can sometimes carry E.Coli which is deadly.

Avoiding accidents

Read the rules of the rides. Stay on marked pathways. Don't go behind the tents or in unauthorized areas.

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