The annual 50th State Fair opened Friday night at Aloha Stadium with the rides, games, food and fun. But it's the last year that a wild animal act will be part of the attraction.
Three grizzly bears that are part of a show called "A Grizzly Experience" will be the last animal act that will visit Hawaii for the foreseeable future. Earlier in this month, Gov. David Ige said the state would no longer issue permits for entertainment acts involving wild animals.
Animal rights activists said it would protect the welfare of the animals and ensure public safety. But for the fair, it also means the end of a long tradition.
"There have been no incidents," said Donna Smith of E.K. Fernandez Shows. "We've done this for a hundred years. The public has never been in danger, the environment hasn't been in danger, the animals are all well-cared for."
"We're state and federally licensed, and we're regulated by the state and federal government. And no matter where we are, they do fully ensure that our animals are one hundred percent fully taken care of," said Dexter Osborn of A Grizzly Experience.
Osborn also said the point of the animal act is to educate people. "We're here to teach folks, the patrons, about how to be safe in bear country, what to do if they encounter these guys in the wild, as well as give everybody an up close personal look and them as well."
Families and kids also have a chance at the fair to see farm animals up close in the popular petting zoo, which features, goats, cows and chickens. But in the past, the fair has brought in several animals, including ostriches and lions. People who visit the fair said it's one reason why they go.
"I think we should keep them," said fair-goer Cy Nakiso of Waipahu. "Only because even we live on this island, we don't really get to see all those exotic animals, like the penguins and the grizzly. I haven't seen a grizzly in my life and so I want to see them."
The 50th State Fair will be held on weekends through July 5. The bears will be at the fair through June 7.
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