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A fair forgotten: Poor turnout during festival season has some questioning quality

A carnival worker sat on the tilt-a-whirl, smoking a cigarette, waiting on someone, anyone, to come and board the ride.

On a breezy Sunday afternoon, the skies were clear and empty, much like the turnout at the 163rd Street Mall Fair.

In the peak of festival season, turnout at the fair was poor.

On Jan. 21, the few families attending the fair, which has set up shop in the 163rd Street Mall parking lot for several years, seemed unsure where to begin despite there being less than 20 total attractions.

By Amanda Gala
South Florida Uncovered
@SoFloUncovered • Facebook • Instagram

Sebastian Belt, who was there with his children, said this was the second year he was attending. Although his children are too young to notice, he said he could tell the conditions were substandard.

“I know there isn’t much to work with considering the size of the parking lot, but they can definitely clean up a little more,” he said.

Belt noted that some of the rides seemed outdated. He pointed to pieces of garbage scattered around them, possibly unswept from the night before.

Another attendee, Shanny Lara, said she was there for her little brother but that there was little for him to do.

“The games that they had set up weren’t even fully ready when we got there,” she said. “And there weren’t that many kid rides that my brother could ride on.”

Not all who attended had the same concerns as Belt and Lara, but theirs were not unique experiences, Belt said, adding that improvements might increase attendance.

“I definitely think that if whoever organizes this fair found some more updated rides, or maybe better game and food booths, more people might see the fair from the street and want to come,” said Belt.

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A used plate awaited riders at the bottom of the fun slide. (Photo credit: Amanda Gala)

According to the North Miami Beach Public Affairs Aide Nicholas Williams, the city does not oversee the organization and preparation of the fair.

“The fair is not a city event but rather a private event that is organized by the 163rd Street Mall,“ he said.

Representatives of the mall were unavailable to answer questions when contacted by phone.

Brittany Miller, employee of Playland Amusement, said her company partnered with Calkins Midways and Carr Expositions–whose owner, Larry Carr, is among the fair’s organizers–to supply the attractions for the fair.

She added that she was unsure who funds the fair, but knew permits and committees were involved in the process.

“We travel all around South Florida and the east coast mostly,” said Miller. “Next Thursday, we are moving the fair to Holy Family Church down the street.”

Miller said that the Holy Family Church festival would have more rides and attractions since there would be more space.

Lara said she hoped the additions would lead to an improved fair next year.

“It’s very close to home, and I feel like it has a lot of potential to be good,” she said.

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The rides and food trucks were set up, but few locals attended the fair. (Photo credit: Amanda Gala)

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