The 85th annual Ozark Empire Fair: Preparing for fair-goers safety

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:11 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Thursday, July 29, is opening day for the 85th annual Ozark Empire Fair.

To ensure the fun goes on without a hitch, public safety and security director Mike Ashbee said there will be a significant emphasis on safety and security.

“We don’t know what’s going to arise, so we’re making plans ahead of time,” said Ashbee. “Not that we’re going to eliminate the problem, but we’re going to reduce the risk if there is a problem.”

Ashbee explained that it takes lots of planning and coordination because they rely heavily on an all-hands-on-deck team effort.

There are security guards and safety personnel staffed throughout the fair. There will also be hospital tradeoffs and EMTs on site.

Ashbee said that the Springfield Police Department would act as a go-to source on the fairgrounds for maximum safety. At the same time, the Office of Emergency Management would be the primary source for all communication needs.

“They’re the direct connection with the National Weather Service or any weather alerts, all communication, whether it be fire, police, EMS security; all go through that communication track,” explained Ashbee. “And that’s a key point for us. That’s a great help that we’re all communicating the right way.”

While the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds is preparing for fairgoers’ safety, they also want attendees to come prepared.

“We have protocols in place if a child was to go missing,” said Ashbee. “But, we want you to keep an eye on your children and be sure to stay hydrated. You can eat cotton candy, but make sure you’re drinking water and not only eating cotton candy.”

General Manager Aaron Owen said they’ll also continue taking the COVID-19 safety measures they took last year, except the mask mandate. However, he said there would be masks available for those that would like one.

Owen said there are hand washing and sanitizing stations, signage posted throughout the fair, continuous announcements to remind people to social distance and be safe and reduce seating in the eating areas.

“So really, other than some numbers in the grandstand which are a little higher than they were last year, but still way below our average capacity; We’re continuing everything we did last year, which was successful,” explained Owen. “We remind people, you know, stay hydrated but wash your hands take care of each other.”

While there’s an emphasis on safety, Owen said they’re also ready to celebrate with a big birthday bash for the 85th annual fair and Missouri’s 200th birthday.

As a party favor, Owen said they have more free entertainment than they’ve ever had here before. He said about every 30 minutes; you can enjoy something free happening across the fairgrounds.

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