SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Local law enforcement is crediting a curfew that’s been in place for the past two years for reducing crimes taking place during the Sioux Empire Fair. The fair begins its run Friday evening at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds. Fair organizers want to make sure everyone stays safe once the sun goes down.

The fair curfew went into effect in 2021. It means law enforcement and fair security will escort fairgoers 17 and under off the property, if they’re not accompanied by a parent or guardian after 9 p.m.

Crews are nearly finished assembling the midway rides at the Sioux Empire Fair.

“You watch them all set up for several days. You talk to them and hang out with them and then it’s just boom! They’re gone, just like that,” Sioux Empire Fair CEO Scott Wick said.

The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department will also have a presence near the midway as officers get ready to enforce the fairgrounds curfew.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent criminal activity from happening at the fairgrounds,” Capt. Adam Zishka of the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office said.

The 9:00 curfew is intended to keep large groups of teens from gathering in the night and threatening the safety of other fairgoers.

“We just used to have a lot of younger teenagers that would come out at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. They’d go through 20 bucks in ride tickets and then, what are you going to do when you don’t have any more money?” Wick said.

“Sometimes, kids from one place meet kids from another place and there tends to be some violence that occurs, some fights break out,” Zishka said.

The sheriff’s department says it’s pretty easy to spot a kid who’s breaking curfew. A telltale sign is they travel in groups without a grownup in sight.

“The fair is not a place for your children to be babysat. And that’s the message that we’re trying to send,” Zishka said.

And it’s a message that’s sinking in. Zishka says there’s been a dramatic drop in the fights and other problems at the fair since the curfew went into effect.

“What we’re actually seeing is a big upswing in people coming out with their parents or guardians, which is what we want anyway,” Zishka said.

Signs alerting fairgoers of the curfew will be posted at the entrances to the fairgrounds.
The sheriff’s department will have as many as twenty people at a time working the fair.
That includes reserves as well as school resource officers from Sioux Falls police.