Evergreen State Fair upgrades security for kids, parents

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MONROE — Hundreds of families are flocking to Monroe for the first weekend of the Evergreen State Fair. Some parents have concerns about safety and who’s being allowed to interact with their children. But fair organizers say there’s no reason to worry.

There are lots of rides, lots of animals, and lots of people at the Evergreen State Fair. That’s why one of the biggest safety concerns parents have is kids getting lost.

“The first thing we did was go by and get these ID bracelets,” says Lori Williams, a mother who brought five kids to the fair. “In case a kid gets lost, they have our number and can get a hold of us.”

Checking kids in and getting IDs on them is just one of the ways fair organizers have tried to be more pro-active when it comes to security.

“It’s really crowded here, lots of folks and lots of kids,” says John Hulburd, who attended the fair with his nephew. “So I think it’s a great idea, that they can use modern technology to get the kids back to their parents.

Sheriff’s deputies are also using technology to keep an eye on the crowds. They’ve increased the number of surveillance cameras, and are constantly watching from a command center on the grounds.

“One of the key elements we implemented last year, we have video at all of our exit gates,” says Tom Tiegen, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Director. “In the unlikely event that a child was grabbed or there's a custody dispute and dad grabs kid, we're going to see that. We've got good facial recognition at the exit gates. “

As for the workers interacting with kids over the next couple weeks, fair organizers say they were even more careful this year after learning that three sex offenders were fired from their jobs as ride operators at the Washington State Fair last year.

“We’ve worked with our carnival vendor,” says fair director Hal Gausman. “We asked them to get us stuff earlier, all their documentation. We did a thorough background check. The county has some systems internally we can use.”

He says they’re doing everything they can to keep people safe, so families can focus on just having fun. Marcia Ross and her grandkids appreciate that.

“With all those precautions, I think it helps ease your mind a little bit.”

The Evergreen State Fair runs through September 1.

The Washington State Fair will start a few days later on September 5. Puyallup police are already getting ready to start background checks on those fair employees. They say they’re learned from what happened last year.

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