Wisconsin State Fair, and West Allis, is ready for anything
Security is set, and officials hope good weather will bring in satisfied crowds
West Allis — Technically, it is not a "West Allis" event, but the Wisconsin State Fair has a way of making its presence known locally.
The annual fair begins its 11-day run, Aug. 1-11, today, when parking in the downtown district will become notably scarce as people fill the grounds. The car-and-people traffic is something city officials are accustomed to dealing with, though security issues in recent years have increased.
To help ensure a fair time will be had by all, city and State Fair Park officials will make sure fair-goers feel secure, said Kristi Chuckel, the fair's communications manager.
"We want everyone to know we have (security) efforts in place," Chuckel said.
The State Fair will continue security measures initiated last year following near-riot disturbances that rocked the fairgrounds area in 2011.
"We implemented our youth admission policy (last year)," Chuckel said. "So any youth under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian starting at 5 p.m. We also implemented bag checks — not just bags, but coolers and things like that — at the gate."
Chuckel said park officials started monthly meetings with area law enforcement agencies — particularly West Allis and Milwaukee police departments — last year to prepare for the fair.
"We really do have a great collaboration with both of those law enforcement agencies," she said. "We just met with them last week for one final run-through, and everyone is on board to do what we did last year, which means they'll have a presence both in the park and on the perimeter. And, of course, the State Fair Park police will be here, as usual."
Internally, the State Fair police are ready to assist with more routine concerns, including reuniting lost children with parents and making sure everyone stays hydrated, said State Fair Police Chief Jim Bruno, who is confident his force will again mesh nicely with other police units.
West Allis Police Chief Chuck Padgett said he is likewise comfortable with the arrangement the city has with State Fair and Milwaukee police forces.
"We're planning similar efforts that we had last year, with manpower, presence and patrols...so we are up on what potential issues may arise and work to avert them," Padgett said.
With the city using signage to generate a "good pattern" of traffic, Padgett said West Allis is experienced in managing the annual vehicle deluge. The recent re-opening of the Greenfield Avenue bridge over Interstate 894 was important in helping manage traffic, though construction on 87th Street and elsewhere "may cause some issues for parking," he added.
If this week's weather forecast holds up, the cars and crowds could indeed be plentiful.
"It looks like opening day is going to be beautiful, so we're prepared for some good crowds coming in," said Chuckel, noting the Main Stage lineup that includes Heart on opening night and Miranda Lambert on closing night. "And we have such a great lineup in between, as well."
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