Thrill-seekers at this year's Wilson County Fair are sure to see their favorite rides, food vendors and attractions at this year's event, but they may also notice a larger police presence than in years past.
There's no doubt that the fair, scheduled for Aug. 19-27, is the county's largest tourist draw. Last year, fair organizers reported more than 500,000 visitors during the nine-day run.
But in this day and age, large crowds bring concern for many who look at the tragedies that occurred at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the July Orlando nightclub shootings, attacks in Nice, France, and others. Safety and security are first and foremost on the minds of local law enforcement.
"We have added positions as the event has grown," Lebanon Police PIO Cpl. PJ Hardy said. "Will there be more officers? Yes. We will continue to work hand in hand with the (Wilson County) Sheriff's Department."
Working with other departments, Hardy said they have shared information with other agencies about fair and other large gathering best practices for ensuring the safety of all guests, vendors, workers and volunteers.
He added that they have not received any specific threats about this year's fair, but officers and deputies will be vigilant nonetheless.
"The good thing is we have had plenty of practice with this event," Hardy said.
Wes Moster, deputy communication director with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said agencies working together to be proactive is key to keeping everyone safe.
"While we currently have no known credible threats... we do encourage the reporting of any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency once it is safe to do so."
Hardy said LPD will have both uniformed and non-uniformed officers at the fair.
There are no plans to change procedures for entrance to the fair, and Hardy said they have not specifically banned firearms at the fair.
"We follow Tennessee state law on firearms, meaning if you are licensed and permitted to carry a firearm and have that documentation with you, you are allowed to bring your firearm," he said.
Wilson County Fair officials said they encourage all bags to be small in size, and coolers are not allowed. In fact, all bags are subject to search by Lebanon Public Safety officers who will be working each entrance.
Child safety will also be a focus of the department, Hardy said.
"Definitely, if a child goes separated from their parents, they can go to any officer on the grounds and we are obviously in communication. All controls are handled by our on-site command center, and we have monitors there to see what is happening on the fairgrounds."
So while visiting this year's fair, enjoying a sweet or savory treat, thrill ride or attraction, know that there are hundreds of officers and volunteers making sure it's a safe trip.
Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.