If you're going to the Wisconsin State Fair this weekend, be ready for lots of extra security, potential delays, and a tough new admissions policy. You won't even be allowed in after 5 p.m. if you are under age 18, unless you are accompanied by a parent or a legal adult guardian.
The crackdown is the result of a night of violence on opening night Thursday, when gangs of rampaging youth injured 11 people, seven of them police officers. At least 31 people were arrested, and the next day Gov. Scott Walker called in the State Patrol.
A story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Friday reports witnesses saying that some of the violence appeared to be race-related.
Nobody under age 18 is now allowed to enter the fairgrounds after 5 p.m. unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian who is at least 21.
By Friday, according to press accounts, security officers were checking identification and searching bags, and some unaccompanied young people were being turned away at the gates. Extra metal fencing was being added to entrance areas as well. Friday night was relatively calm.
The violence Thursday started around 7 p.m.in the midway area, when fights broke out among black youths. Those fights did not appear to be racially motivated.
Then around closing time at 11 p.m., witnesses told the Journal Sentinel, dozens to hundreds of black youths attacked white people as they left the fair, punching and kicking people and shaking and pounding on their vehicles.
The violence reminded many of the mob-like disturbances that occurred over the Fourth of July weekend in Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, himself the victim of a random attack with a tire iron that left him with broken teeth, bones and stitches two years ago right outside the fairgrounds, plans to beef up security at other events across the city this weekend as well.
Walker made the decision to provide extra State Patrol help after reviewing the incidents, said his spokesmen, Cullen Werwie.
"We will continue to evaluate the situation and make any adjustments necessary to ensure a successful and safe event. We will be doing everything in our power to ensure that parents feel that it is safe to bring their children to the world's best fair," Werwie said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the State Fair promises that the extra security should not result in lengthy delays at the gates, but I wouldn't count on that.