SACRAMENTO -- Witnesses describe a pretty scary scene that unfolded on the State Fair's opening day.
They say the first fight broke out in this area after 10 p.m. Friday with a group of about 50 teens throwing punches -- not far from families with small children.
"I'm pleased in the direction the fair is going in. Our new techniques seem to be working," said Cal Expo’s Chief of Police, Joe Robillard, on Friday.
Despite the chief’s best efforts, opening night at the California State Fair saw another round of violence, according to witnesses.
Sara Sterner, 36, says she was standing within feet of the fight with her mom and young niece and nephew when the first punches were thrown.
“They had all gathered around the edge of the curb, pushing, shoving, pushing and then you hear them screaming 'he’s got a knife, he’s got a gun,'” Sterner said.
Sterner says fair security responded within a matter of seconds but breaking up the large group of teenagers wasn’t easy — and pepper spray was deployed.
“It was great until things like this happen and it kind of puts a sour taste in your mouth,” Sterner said.
Cal Expo’s chief of police issued a statement to acknowledging an altercation did occur.
“After the fair closed, there was a brief isolated incident in front of the main gate where a group of teenagers started pushing, shoving and fighting. The safest and most appropriate choice to prevent the situation from getting out of control and to disperse the crowd safely, one officer deployed pepper spray. No one was hurt, and the incident was over in roughly 30 seconds,” the statement read.
However, minutes later, another fight reportedly broke out.
This time near the intersection of Exposition Lane and Heritage Boulevard.
“They started fighting in the middle of the road. There were so many,” a witness described.
Witnesses say the fight briefly blocked traffic just as fairgoers were exiting the fairgrounds.
“It got my heart racing. I thought, ‘I don’t know what to do. I’m just going to get myself out of here,’” a witness explained.
Visitors hope last night’s activity marks the end of violence at the fair — but for people like Sterner — she says she doesn’t want to take the risk of putting her family in more danger.
“We’re not going to go back. It’s too scary. During the day it’s OK but at night, it’s a whole different vibe. It’s scary,” she said.
The scene was so traumatic that one woman doesn't want to return to the fair despite having season tickets.
Others say they will still go during the day but will leave before the sun goes down.
Meanwhile, the police chief at the fair says no arrests were made last night and overall opening day was a big success.