As more than 300,000 people will traverse the Missouri State Fairgrounds in the days to come, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) offers an insight to how they strive to keep the public safe and enforce the law during the massive event.
MSHP assigns more than 80 personnel to the 10-day event. They consist of troopers, dispatchers, recruiters, public information officers and even a mechanic. They stay in Sedalia from the day before the event until the day after and along with a security detail made up of peace officers from several local law enforcement organizations, provide law enforcement, safety and information to guests 24 hours a day.
“Our troopers are making sure people can get in and out of the gates safely. If you drive around the fairgrounds, you will see troopers there making sure fairgoers have the correct access to get in to the gates as well as the public getting into those general admission gates,” said MSHP Public Information Officer Sgt. Brent Bernhardt.
“We also have troopers performing ground patrol. They patrol the grounds, meeting people’s needs, making sure not only that they are safe, but if there is an issue, we take care of that as well. The Missouri State Highway Patrol was created in 1931 and I don’t know exactly what year troopers started coming here, but it has been a big part of the Patrol for many, many years.”
Troopers come from each of Missouri’s nine Troop Divisions to work at the fair. Many of the troopers have worked it before, some for multiple years.
“We have a lot of troopers that have come back over the years,” Bernhardt said. “This is my 19th year working the Missouri State Fair. Many of the troopers, depending on their assignments back home, want to come back every year. We are working 24/7 down here. There is not a time when a Missouri State Trooper is not in the detail.”
With the massive influx of people to the grounds, usually high temperatures, and alcoholic beverages available at many locations, problems undoubtedly arise.
“Obviously you are dealing with people. When you deal with people, you have issues. Sometimes it’s hot, that tends to get people a little more agitated. Usually the problems that we see down here are easily handled,” Bernhardt said.
Problems that result in a MSHP arrest or detainment are uncommon at the event, according to Bernhardt. He said most of the attendees are families and just there to see the exhibits and have a good time.
“You have to understand that a large majority of the people that come to the Missouri State Fair are people who have been coming for years,” Bernhardt said. “Whether it’s people from Pettis County or people showing livestock or different things, this is a part of a lot of people’s families regular yearly visit, so it is a family fair. The issues that we have here are pretty limited.”
With some of the nation’s biggest artists performing concerts and other events expected to draw thousands to the grandstand over the next several days, the MSHP has a dedicated several Troopers to that detail. Bernhardt offered the following advice to ticketholders.
“We know there are going to be a lot of people traveling. Recognize there will be extra traffic on the roadway. Certainly, we encourage motorists to drive attentively. If alcohol is a part of their plans, they need to choose a sober designated driver. Last but certainly not least, you want your family protected to the greasiest extent they can be and seat belts are the way to do that,” Bernhardt said.
For the MSHP, it is not all about making arrests. Bernhardt said the fair is “a great opportunity for troopers to showcase the Missouri State Highway Patrol” and that they are there to help the public any way they can.
“Our troopers are out and about. We are visiting with folks. People ask us, ‘Where is this?’ If we somebody walking around is overheated or having a medical issue, we are there to help them. Certainly any time there is a law enforcement issue, maybe somebody’s gotten into an argument or anything like that, obviously we have to take care of those situations too,” he said.
In addition to routine duties, the MSHP’s Otto the Talking Car, one of the fair’s biggest attractions and time honored traditions, will be on display near the Fair Fire Station and the MoDOT Garden, with troopers answering questions and handing out free T-shirts for the kids.
“Otto the Talking Car is a 1931 Ford Model A. It has been at the Fair since the 1960s and has talked to many kids spreading safety messages,” Bernhardt said. “Whether it’s a message about wearing your seat belt, stranger danger or farm safety, we talk to these kids about a lot of different things and have a lot of fun with them.”