The are some things visitors to the Missouri State Fair may find concerning: the weather, how they may feel after eating one more fried food item more than the number they set at their limit, or if their favorite contestant will win State Fair Idol.
One thing that should not be a concern for any visitor who attends the Fair is their security, thanks to the presence of the Missouri State Fair Highway Patrol troopers.
A force of 86 patrol troopers will be hand each day of the fair to provide for the safety and security of all fairgoers, as well as those who exhibit and work on the grounds during the 10-day event, which begins Thursday.
“We’re here for the duration,” Lt. Nathan Ahern, from Troop A in Lee’s Summit, said. “It’s our job to focus on the safety and security of everyone who comes to the Fair.”
Ahern, who has been with the Patrol for 23 years, is in his first year in command of the troopers at the Fair.
“I was a zone commander here for 13 years until 2013,” Ahern said. “I’ve been around the Fair for quite a while now.”
Ahern said many of the troopers who work at the fair have also been there for multiple years.
Many of the men and women who work at the Fair volunteer to come to the event each year.
“The troopers come from all over the state,” Ahern explained. “We have nine different regions throughout the state and each one sends a number of officers to work the Fair.”
The number of troopers is based on the size of the sending troop.
Troop A, which serves Pettis County, typically sends the largest number of officers to the Fair.
“Many of the other troops rotate their troopers,” Ahren said. “The exception is A. Our troopers are largely the same throughout the Fair and from year to year.
“It provides a sense of continuity in the administration and duties during the Fair,” he added.
The troopers range in age from 22 to 60. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has a mandatory retirement age of 60.
There are five primary responsibilities for the officers: traffic and gate duty, ground patrol, grandstand supervision, office and administrative work, and public information including demonstrations with “Auto the Talking Car.”
“In some fashion a part of our job is to showcase what the Highway Patrol does,” Ahern said. “A portion of our job is public relations, like working with the youth when they stop by and see Auto.
“For many of us, we like coming back and seeing all the people,” Ahern added. “That applies to both the people we work with and visitors to the Fair.”
Ahern noted that all the troopers appreciate the relationship they have with the State Fair administration and employees.
“We work really closely with the Fair staff,” Ahern said. “I don’t think a lot of people may recognize that.”
Ahern said when the Troopers close a gate, that often is not their decision.
“(Fair officials) will let us know when a parking lot is full,” Ahern said. “We close the gates and walk the citizens across the streets based on the information they provide us.”
Parking is one area that people often have concerns about.
“A lot of situations we deal with do center on parking,” he said. “People do get upset about that at times.”
The troopers also deal with injuries and medical emergencies. The Fair has both first aid stations and medical personnel available if a need arises.
The No. 1 problem facing the troopers though is over-drinking.
Ahern said any time someone needs assistance from the troopers, there are two options they may take. Individuals may go to the Highway Patrol offices, located on Missouri State Fair Boulevard near the Pepsi Grandstand to report a concern.
The second way is to find an officer who is on foot patrol.
“We are always out and about walking the grounds,” Ahern said. “Anytime someone needs assistance, that’s what we’re here for.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484