Safety, Security & Fun: A Preview of the Champlain Valley Fair

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. - Ride assembly began Wednesday ahead of the 95th annual Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction.

Fair organizers have three main goals for the fair, also known as the “Ten Best Days of Summer”: safety, security and fun.

“It's a huge part of our business,” said Shane Bissonette, co-owner of Al’s French Frys.

Bissonette says his family bought the restaurant before he was born and the restaurant has had a presence at the fair since the beginning.

This year, there will be eight booths with Al’s name on them.

“Pam and George were here before us for, I think, 36 years,” said Bissonette near his family’s newest fair location. “They decided it was time to retire so we took the spot over. We'll have the same menu they've always had but this will be the first year that Al's has had burgers at the fair."

Also new: a tater tot vendor and a cookie dough vendor.

“So it's a whole dessert booth based around cookie dough,” said Chris Ashby, director of operations at the Champlain Valley Fair. “We have a new wing vendor. We have a new wood fired pizza vendor. We have an Indian food vendor. So there's new food."

There will also be 7 stages with 24 regional musicians performing.

Fair rides have been in the headlines this summer following a fatal ride incident at the Ohio State Fair in July. Excessive corrosion, investigators say, lead to a ride malfunction that claimed the life of a teenager.

Ashby says the rides at the Champlain Valley Fair are checked every day.

A private inspector is flown into the fair every year to make sure the rides will run safely.

“He's actually on site now working with them already,” said Ashby on Wednesday. “There's a lot of sensors and computerized pieces to the rides that we use now so they really do require quite a bit of inspection and quite a bit of knowledge and understanding, technical knowledge, to make them run right."

Last year’s fatal stabbing is also fresh on people’s minds at the Champlain Valley Fair.

Police say Jacob St. Amour killed Ryan Durkin, 22, of South Burlington, with a single stab wound to the torso after an ongoing dispute last September.
Ashby says security policies were reviewed. There were different ideas floated, including banning the sale of weapons.

“It is such a permeable grounds. Literally a week ago we had three other events going on,” said Ashby. “So if you really wanted to stash a weapon here, it would be very easy to do. So anything we did at the gates, or anything like  banning the sale of something, really wouldn't add any security to the overall picture. It would really be more window dressing."

Essex Police Capt. George Murtie says police will have less tolerance for bad behavior in response to last year’s stabbing.

The event is the biggest of the year for the department. Officers are on the lookout for people who are at the fair for the “wrong reasons,” Capt. Murtie says.

Between 35-40 officers from Essex, Williston, Winooski, Colchester and others, will be patrolling the fair throughout the week.

While others fairs across the country are being criticized for either selling or banning confederate flags on the grounds, amid growing tension over Confederate statues, it is unlikely to be an issue in Essex Junction.

The director of operations of the fair says the its policy hasn’t changed.

“We highly, highly discourage that from our vendors so we try not to have them here,” said Chris Ashby. “Occasionally they do come through but when we see them, we ask that they're removed."

There are new deals this year to save some money at the fair, including free parking before 1pm on weekdays.

“There's opportunities to come for a car load special, you simply pick up a coupon at a Maplefield's and your whole car gets in that day, you get admission, parking and a ride bracelet for everyone in the car for one price so that's a great deal,” said Ashby.

For more information on deals and discounts, visit http://www.champlainvalleyfair.org/pricing.html


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