Security tough during five-day affair
While many Nevada County residents view the County Fair with wide-eyed excitement, Lt. Ron Smith squints at the annual event with a bit of wariness.
As a patrol officer for Nevada County’s Sheriff Department, Smith sees the darker side of the five-day fair as he and his team work on maintaining safety.
“There’s a logistical problem we face each year at the fair,” Smith said. “When you have so many people in a small area, it requires a lot of control.”
At least 10 uniformed sheriff’s deputies keep watch at the fairgrounds from opening to closing each day. That doesn’t include several detectives in plain clothes who keep watch over the large sums of cash accumulated at the fair, Smith said.
Although the fair usually goes off each year without any catastrophes, Smith said that there are always more jail bookings, reports of lost children and increased police activity when it’s fair week.
The main cause of any problems during the fair, Smith said, is due to alcohol consumption and some of the seedier “carnies,” travelling carnival ride operators.
“There are always two or three girls who end up pregnant after hanging out with these carnies,” Smith said. “People have to understand that these guys have been around and know a few tricks.”
To cut down on problems caused by alcohol consumption, the fair’s board of directors has worked with food vendors to limit the amount of alcohol that can be sold and the number of hours it can be available, Smith said.
In addition, Smith added, all carnival workers will be issued photo identification cards to be shown when they return to their trailers on the fairgrounds premises after closing time. Many workers sleep in trailers attached to their booths.
“We’re trying to crack down on the number of carnies that go into town after the fair, have a few beers and then try to sneak back on the grounds with other people,” Smith said.
Smith said that police officers would patrol the fairgrounds at night, as well.
“Every year when the fair comes,” he said, “we’re on alert 24/7.”
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