May 22, 2024

No need for speed at Half Century show, says security chief

RANTOUL, Ill. — Slow down!

If there’s one thing that Craig Long, who directs safety and security at the Half Century of Progress Show, wants to get across to everyone attending the event, it’s to slow down.

“It’s not a race. There are plenty of things to see and plenty of time to see them,” he said.

One of the biggest changes that Long has seen in 20 years of coordinating safety at the show is the growth of personal conveyances, golf carts, side-by-sides and ATVs at the event.

Along with the increased numbers of motorized transportation comes additional challenges in keeping everyone at the show safe.

“Probably our biggest fear and our biggest problem now is keeping people slowed down enough around the pedestrian traffic so they don’t run over someone,” said the retired Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department deputy.

Long has coordinated safety and security at the show for two decades.

“The crowds seem to manage themselves. We are talking about a segment of society that is pretty easily regulated and self-regulated. They are not hard to direct in any particular direction,” he said.

But Long said the motorized conveyances now pose one of the biggest challenges to safety.

“Sometimes, they get a little carried away with the golf carts and the side-by-sides out in the working fields and particularly in and around the food court and where the displays are, with the pedestrians,” he said.

Long also reminded showgoers that they can help to keep the show and everyone at the show safe by reporting unsafe conditions or behavior.

“If you see something that is unsafe, say something. Come to one of us and let us know about it at that moment and we will address it. If you see kids running around in an ATV and they shouldn’t be, let us know and we will address it,” he said.

Another challenge comes from the dynamic of large groups of people around vintage working farm machinery.

“We have a segment of the population who is looking at the machinery, particularly the combines and threshing machines and corn pickers, who do not have a familiarity with those machines — and machines that weren’t particularly safe when they were new,” Long said.

“We try to remind people — don’t stick your hand in something or touch something unless you know exactly what it’s there for. And keep a safe distance from those machines when they are operating.”

While he is happy to see young families with young children at the show, Long also reminded parents that vintage working farm implements and curiosity of small children don’t mix.

“We love to see young families here, but they need to be reminded that there are things on these implements that are exposed that are hot, that can burn you, especially things like chains, belts, pulleys. So, just be careful with children around those things,” he said.

Long said there will be EMTs and paramedics onsite to tend to any illnesses or injuries. Announcements will be made over 89.9 FM and over the PA system about any safety issues or concerns.

Long will be conducting safety meetings each day. He reminded attendees that anyone operating equipment during the show has to sign a safety certificate.

Several law enforcement agencies will have a presence on the grounds throughout the show. Field marshals also contribute to keeping the event safe.

“If you are in the fields, there are field marshals present during the demonstrations. If there’s a problem, go see the field marshal and his word is the final word,” Long said.

“Whatever they say in that field, that is the final word. Don’t come to me and want an exception. If there is a problem in the fields, the field marshals know what to do.”

Safety and security also involves keeping the grounds in good condition.

“It’s up to us to care for the airport and the grounds and to leave it in the condition that we found it. If there were to be a major event, it could change the availability of the facility, so we are all about safety,” Long said.

“We love to come and play in that sandbox and we really want to keep coming back to that sandbox.”

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor