Lately there has been talk around town concerning a lingering fear of attending the Parkesburg Fire Company's annual fair this year "because of what happened last year." Some say these concerns stem from the early closing on the last day of the event last year.According to Fire Chief Ray Stackhouse of Parkesburg Fire Company, on the last night of the fair last year, several individuals were involved in fights that got out of control. "Multiple incidents accumulated," he said, "and the police felt it was time to clear the fairgrounds." He blamed a lack of communication between the police, fire department, and people who ran the fair for the incident. "The police thought it best to end the fair and herded people out," Stackhouse said.
Police Chief Brian Sheller, who said the inclement weather and pending thunderstorms were the cause of the early closing last year, is also confident that they have enough manpower to effectively handle the event. "I think it's a safe venue," he said. "The police department has taken the appropriate steps to make sure there is a presence in and around the fairgrounds. The same goes with the fire company."
In preparation for this year's fair, taking place now through Saturday night, several steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the fairgoers and Stackhouse said he feels the security is "in a very good place."
The fire and police departments have established a unified command where they will have one source of communication at all times. "If there's a problem," Stackhouse said, "we will communicate that to command and that person will make decisions based on police complaint." He added that the fire department can also directly contact the police and emergency services.
Detective Jerry Davis of the Parkesburg Police Department said they are very confident that they can keep the event safe. There will be visible police presence both on bike and foot patrol, in addition to the normal patrol functions.
"We have increased the manpower from the fire department and they will be doing nothing but traffic control and monitoring," Stackhouse said. "There will also be increased police presence.
"We hold the fair for families and the community," he said. "People coming in to make trouble are not welcome."
"While we are not anticipating any problems, we are always prepared for it," Davis added.
For additional safety, this year there are only two entrances to the fair, from West Street and from Gay Street. This will enable security personnel to monitor the entrances more closely. There will also be no dogs, bikes, or skateboards permitted inside the fairgrounds.
Sheller said that Parkesburg stresses a Zero Tolerance policy and "violators will be arrested. Period. We have the manpower in place to keep order," he said. "My suggestion is if people are looking to create a problem, they should go somewhere else."