Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO says safety is ‘at the forefront of everything that we do’

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WEST ALLIS -- Starting Thursday, Aug. 1, thousands will stream into the 200-acre Wisconsin State Fair Park, with one million visitors expected over the Wisconsin State Fair's 11-day run. Organizers said each day, safety is at the forefront.

"And yes, there are challenges, but at the forefront of everything that we do at the Wisconsin State Fair is our safety initiative," said Kathleen O'Leary, Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO. "For the last six years, we've had over a million fairgoers attend the 11-day Wisconsin State Fair, and we're very proud of that, and we're thrilled that people want to be here."

Wisconsin State Fair

Security was top of mind in the wake of a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California on Sunday, July 28. Police said Santino Legan shot into the crowd with an "AK-47-type" weapon, killing a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a recent college graduate. Twelve others were injured. Police patrolling the event responded within a minute and killed Legan as he turned the weapon on them.

The city had put in place security for the festival, one of the largest food fairs in the country. People were required to pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched. Police, paramedics, and firefighters were stationed throughout the event.

But Legan didn't go through the front entrance. He cut through a fence that borders a parking lot next to a creek, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said. Some witnesses reported a second suspect, and a manhunt stretched into Monday, but it was unclear whether that person was armed or just helped in some way.

Wisconsin State Fair

Wisconsin State Fair

Kathleen O'Leary

Kathleen O'Leary

O'Leary said security at the Wisconsin State Fair has been a priority for years.

"We have been taking it very serious," said O'Leary.

State Fair Park has its own police department, with more than 100 sworn officers and a 24/7 command post for the duration of the Wisconsin summer tradition that, for several years, has included metal detectors and bag searches before your annual cream puff, or two.

"We're doing everything we can to safeguard, and to make sure the visitors, while they're at the Wisconsin State Fair, are safe," said O'Leary.

No weapons or knives are allowed at the Wisconsin State Fair, and all bags will be searched. You're asked to keep bags to a minimum to keep things moving at the gates.

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