Friday, February 1, 2008

Festival organizers aim for safety

Festival organizers aim for safety
Updated: 1/30/2008 4:36:15 PM
By: Veronica Castelo

Parade safety is a big concern.
Festivals are supposed to be fun, festive and care free.

Former Elgin City Manager Jack Harzke said he never worried about much when he used to help with the annual Western Days Festival.

"Our biggest fear was some kid getting hit by a candy being thrown off the float," Harzke said.

Today, Harzke said it's different.

"In recent times, there have been some sad accidents and some fatal accidents. People are more worried about the liability," Harzke said.

One accident on the minds of Central Texans occurred in Hutto in 2005. A settlement is now being finalized in the case of a 12-year old girl who died after falling off a float during a parade.

Gena Carter is the President of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce. She said reports of injuries at other festivals is one of many reasons organizers in Elgin are now on high alert.

"We want to make sure the participants are safe as well as
the people watching the parade," Carter said.

Carter said other festival organizers are also concerned. Some are doing away with activities that increase liability like skate boarding demonstrations and pony rides.

Some organizers are even paying up to $6,000 for insurance to avoid lawsuits, according to Bill McCrary, the chairperson of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce.

Elgin is turning to its residents for help.

"We're making sure we have enough volunteers to address those
concerns regarding setting up barricades, inspecting floats and
making sure everyone obeys the rules of the parade," McCrary said.

Carter said the city does not currently have enough volunteers.

"We just want to make it a safe event and as it grows and more people come, it's harder to address some of those issues," Carter said.

If people don't step up, Carter said the city will have to make some changes to its lineup. It may mean the 39th Annual
Western Days will be different, but Carter said it will be safe.

Western Days is scheduled for June 24 through the 28. The Chamber of Commerce will hold a meeting for anyone interested in volunteering next Tuesday. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the
Chamber office.

You can also call (512) 285-4515 for more information.

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