• Officials say Cleveland Co. fair is safe

    By: Ken Lemon


    SHELBY, N.C. -

    The Cleveland County Fair opened today and more eyes are on the fair more than ever after last year's E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 100 visitors and killing one toddler.

    The source was traced back to the petting zoo.

    Signs point attendees to hand-washing stations and warning them not to touch the animals.

    Plastic chains are set up inches from the caged animals to remind visitors not to pet the animals.

    Department of Agriculture officials said chains are a sufficient warning and inspectors also told fair officials to erect more signs telling people not to touch the animals.

    Terri Ellison brought her grandson to the fair.

    "There are a lot of warning signs," the grandmother said. "I feel safe for him, but we won't be touching the animals."

    Opinions from vendors have been mixed. One said the new rules take away from the fair experience, but another said they can only help.

    "They are for the better. It's really going to work out great for all of us," said Brent Cook.

    Vendor Marsha Selph said, "You can't be too safe."

    The attorney for fair operators said they are going beyond the recommendations of the E. coli task force by adding more volunteers and health workers to monitor fair activities and make sure people stay clean.

    "I think the Cleveland County Fairgrounds will probably be the safest place to be anywhere in this part of the state for the next ten days," Attorney Max Gardner said.

    The attorney for the family of the boy who died last year said if there's another outbreak at the fair and operators fail to do everything the state asked, then there will be more lawsuits with stronger claims.

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