Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

They make sure midway games are fair at the Florida State Fair

TAMPA — About an hour before the Florida State Fair opened Thursday, prosecutors and sheriff's deputies fanned out across the midway to race each other in the water gun shootout, pop balloons with darts and fish rubber ducks from blowup ponds.

But don't be fooled. This was all business.

"We've got our measuring sticks to make sure the foot-long corn dogs are actually a foot long," said a straight-faced Mark Ober, the Hillsborough County state attorney.

As mandated by state statutes, members of Ober's office and the Hillsborough sheriff's special investigations unit spent the rainy Thursday morning looking for flaws or false advertising in the midway games.

Like the fried dough and country concerts, the inspection is a vital part of the annual festival, designed to make sure all visitors have a fair shot at all the colorful, plushy prizes.

"It's part of Americana. It's mom and apple pie and baseball and the Florida State Fair. We want to make sure everybody has a good time," Ober said. "People are spending their good money out here."

Ducking under the awning to the balloon-pop game, Ober, State Attorney's Office spokesman Mark Cox and Assistant State Attorney Mike Sinacore grabbed a pile of darts and consulted their 13-page packet of regulations.

"All darts used in dart games must be weighted, balanced and have no frayed, broken or missing fletching," Ober read. "Blunt darts shall not be used."

After determining the meaning of "fletching" (the quill-like part at the dart's end), the prosecutors hurled the darts toward the balloon-filled board.


"This one looks pretty good," Ober said.

In years past, the inspectors have discovered ineffective watermelon-shaped basketball hoops and plastic ducks whose too-big beaks obstructed the rings intended to be hurled around their necks.

This year, though, it seemed everything was in order.

But before they left, Ober said they would make one last check.

"I'm serious about that corn dog," he said.

The fair ends Feb. 21.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or (813) 661-2442.

They make sure midway games are fair at the Florida State Fair 02/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 11:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was curious how he would feel — and perform — in Friday's exhibition against Nashville, his first game since mid-November knee surgery.

    The Lightning’s Alex Killorn, left, makes his preseason debut and has an assist in a 3-1 win against the Predators at Amalie Arena.
  2. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  3. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.
  4. Investigators reviewing HHS chief's private charter flights


    WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are examining Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's recent use of costly charter flights on the taxpayers' dime for official business.

  5. FSU gives president John Thrasher a pay bump as its academic standing rises


    TALLAHASSEE — With Florida State University moving closer to becoming a top-25 public university, the school's trustees on Friday bumped up President John Thrasher's salary by 7 percent and awarded him a $200,000 bonus.

    Florida State University President John Thrasher, center, is surrounded by lawmakers in 2016 as he visits the Florida Senate. Thrasher on Friday received a pay increase to go with the university's increased academic standing, including in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of public universities. FSU ranks 33rd this year, and is aiming for a top-25 spot. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]