Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bikers miffed that State Fair turned them away

TAMPA — They rolled up on motorcycles Sunday, looking for a good time and fried goodies like everyone else at the state fair.

About 50 bikers from an array of clubs stepped off their hogs wearing group patches on their leather jackets, only to be turned away.

Fair rules, enforced by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, ban gang colors or signs.

"That's a common practice at the fair and the Strawberry Festival," said Debbie Carter, a sheriff's spokeswoman.

But a lawyer representing the bikers says their First Amendment rights have been violated.

"They're trying to stifle people's rights by using a blanket policy," said Tarpon Springs attorney Jerry Theophilopoulos. "It's suppressing their right to associate in public."

Individual bikers contacted by the Times declined to be interviewed.

Carter defended the fair's policy.

"It's a potential for something to go wrong," Carter said. "People are asked not to display colors for the safety of themselves and everyone else attending."

Sometimes gang members show up wearing the same red bandana slung around their necks, she said. Or they might all wear the same style and color of clothing.

She said deputies stationed at fair entrances, where signs state the rules, give people the option of removing objectionable clothing.

If not, the group must leave.

The bikers left.

Gangs at the fair have been an issue in the past. Fights have erupted between opposing gangs, a big reason why club colors aren't allowed, Carter said.

Last week, a sheriff's gang unit inspected merchandise vendors before the fair opened to ensure that gang-related clothing wasn't for sale. Members of a multi-county task force also will roam the crowds in search of those displaying gang symbols or hints of their affiliations, as the fair is sometimes used as a place to recruit.

The bikers who were turned away Sunday belong to a variety of clubs, including the Outlaws. Some are members of the Spirit Riders, a Christian motorcycle club, and the New Attitudes, a group of clean and sober riders.

Theophilopoulos said many of the bikers are simply business executives and owners who like to ride.

"The clubs that were with us, none of them have ever gotten into fights at the fair," Theophilopoulos said. "They're not street gangs, and they are being lumped together."

The lawyer said he called the Sheriff's Office Saturday to tell the agency the bikers were coming. He was told that if they wore their colors, they wouldn't be let in.

They tried to go, anyway.

"Sometimes you have to make a statement, to stand up for what you believe in," the lawyer said.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at, or 661-2454.

Bikers miffed that State Fair turned them away 02/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 8, 2010 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022


    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?


    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:


    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off


    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.