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Added security will greet fair goers at MontanaFair

Posted at 6:42 PM, Aug 09, 2023

BILLINGS - As another year of MontanaFair kicks off,a proactive plan is in place to make sure fairgoers are safe, especially after shots were fired in the carnival last year.

Added police patrols will be the most visible change, with officers from the Billings Police Department also patrolling the fair for added security.

Carnival agent Shaye Walles was working the fair last year when the shots rang out.

“It was fast. It was pop pop pop … people started running,” she said. “A lot of people came out and grabbed people and hid them behind booths.”

The hope is that won’t happen this year, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said.

“You are going to see more uniforms here,” said Linder. “You’re going to see officers here that you aren’t even aware they are officers.”

Days before the fair every year, members of the fair, the county, the carnival and emergency services personnel sit down to talk about their special emergency plan. It’s a meeting that happens every year, but the shooting from last year is on their minds.

“With everything going on in the city, safety is our primary responsibility. And we want to make sure we are on top of it, so our patrons don’t have to worry about the safety,” said MetraPark Marketing Director Cody Reitz.

Linder’s deputies will be watching folks coming into the fair, from the ground and from above with a total of 170 cameras, and officers monitoring them 24/7.

“So they are going to be able to see places they wouldn’t normally be able to watch,” said Linder.

Another addition is the installation of a permanent Verizon cell phone tower along with what Reitz calls a “spider” cell system newly installed inside the arena, so that emergency calls can get through. 

Linder also acknowledged the ongoing issue of the overcrowded Yellowstone County jail, saying he’s made the call to make room if a potential criminal incident should arise.