While we’re well known as the premier showcase for the amazing work of Elkhart County’s 4-H youths, and also as a very fun place for family entertainment (we are the fun fair, after all), we are also committed to being a safe place for the community to gather.
“It’s number one. It’s top priority,” said Mike Christofeno, who coordinates security along with fellow fair board member Brad Rogers, the Elkhart County Sheriff.
Christofeno said, “We have a security plan in place that was formulated in large part by the sheriff’s department in cooperation with the fair and other law enforcement agencies. Every year we review and revise it to make it better.”
While there are officers and private security people on the fairgrounds constantly, “we don’t want the officers to be so present that they’re giving you a guided tour,” Christofeno said. “If the need arises, you’re going to have local law enforcement, local fire, EMTs, whatever your need might be, we’re going to be there to address it so that you have a safe and enjoyable fair.” All anyone needs to do to summon help is dial 911 and calls can go directly to the sheriff’s command center on Rotary Boulevard on the fairgrounds. The command center is also where lost children are taken.
In addition to promoting safety for people all over the grounds, we keep a close eye on the weather and added new sirens this year that not only work as tornado sirens, but serve as an emergency public-address system.
“You can be on any ride in the Midway and you can know we have bad weather and to get to your car,” assured Phil Wogoman, emergency management and safety director for the fair board.
“We subscribe to AccuWeather for 12 days and they specifically have a meteorologist watching our area,” Wogoman said. If threatening weather develops, “they text me. If I don’t answer the text, they call me with what’s coming with enough time to react to whatever the situation is. If I don’t answer, they have a backup number so the message gets through.”
The fair is at the pinnacle of technology to try to keep people safe in the event of severe weather. “I don’t think there’s anything we could do to improve on what our weather forecasting is and our response times,” Wogoman said.
“We’ve got the best safety plan, I think, of any fairgrounds around. My grandkids are out here a lot and I don’t ever worry about them, whether they’re walking around or riding the rides. We’ve got the safest ride company out there,” Wogoman said.
“The safety program begins with the hiring process. Every applicant undergoes a pre-employment drug and alcohol screen as well as a criminal background check. And, every single employee, prior to working on our midway, receives safety training, signature ride operator training and employee certification. Our signature hiring and ride operator certification programs have become the standard by which other midway companies are measured.
“While we work daily to create an exciting venue, nothing is more important than the safety of the millions of families who visit our midway. We have the most stringent ride safety program in our industry. Every ride is inspected every single day. We have more certified ride inspectors than any other midway company. We conduct more safety training programs than others in our industry. This rigorous approach to safety assures that our rides far ‘exceed the required regulatory standards of the 20 States and 4 Canadian provinces we visit each year.”
As Christofeno summed up, “We want you to come out here and know that you’re coming to a safe event and that your family’s going to be safe at our fair.”