MILWAUKEE — The countdown is on for the opening day of the Wisconsin State Fair. More than one million people are expected this year which makes safety a top concern for the 11-day event.
Preparations are underway and crews are working hard to make sure all of the rides and vendors are in tip top shape by the time the gates open Thursday morning.
It comes on the heels of Sunday’s mass shooting at a garlic festival in California. Three people were killed calling security into question at large events across the country.
State Fair Park CEO Kathleen O’Leary and park security are preparing for the possibility of any emergency during the event.
“Safety is without question first and foremost. It’s our major initiative. It’s our priority,” O’Leary said.
She feels it’s important that they try to enhance their safety measures every year.
“Everyone that attends the Wisconsin State Fair will go through metal detectors. They will go through the bag checks,” O’Leary said.
Hundreds of police and public safety workers will be going around the park looking out for potential issues.
Then when it comes to rides, inspectors are taking every precaution to make sure they operate properly.
This year there will be nearly 60 rides at the State Fair. They’re quickly filling up the fairgrounds, and inspectors are checking every piece and part along the way.
For nearly 10 years Joe Bixler has been the lead inspector for the State Fair. His goal is to ensure nothing slips by, especially after tragedies in recent years at other fairs and amusement parks.
“Everybody that’s out here is working real hard for safety. There’s a lot of effort put forth, and it is very tedious,” Bixler said.
His crew along with state inspectors examine each ride throughout the process of putting them together.
“There are areas that we can’t see once it’s assembled, so we get with the owner and say, ‘okay when you get to this point, stop, call us, we want to come over and take a look at that area,’” Bixler said.
Testing the rides come next.
“Making sure the operation controls work, emergency stops, whatever it might be,” Bixler said.
Then, every morning of the fair, the operators inspect the rides before the gates open. If any problems arise, Bixler’s crew will be ready to respond.
“They all have the right to go up anytime and interfere, stop a ride and ask questions,” Bixler said.
He wants you to know, they’re doing all they can so your family can enjoy all the excitement at this year’s fair.
“Come with a smile and you leave with a smile. That’s exactly what it’s all about,” Bixler said.
When it comes to safety, those coming to the fair also have to play their part by checking the ride safety signs and following all the rules Bixler said.
Officials also urge attendees to remain vigilant. If you see something, say something.
The gates open Thursday morning at 8 a.m.