Linn County Fair hoping to improve safety with better PA system

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CENTRAL CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A close call with weather at last year’s Linn County Fair in Central City is prompting fair managers to make some public safety improvements.

A t-shirt now for sale by the Linn County Fair features the image of a funnel cloud behind the fairgrounds with the slogan "come for the funnel cloud, stay for the funnel cakes." Money will be used to expand a public address system to cover the entire fairgrounds.

A funnel cloud passed close to the fairgrounds on the first day of the fair in June of 2017. No one was hurt but high winds did damage a fair building and some campers.

Heidi Steffen, fair marketing manager, said the fair doesn’t have a public address system that reaches inside every building or to all the grounds outside.

So getting out a warning to people to take cover quickly last year was impossible. The plan now is to expand the audio system so fair goers can get weather warnings and important information wherever they are on the grounds.

“It happened so quickly that our radios and us trying to run around and tell people to take shelter wasn’t effective because we didn’t have enough time,” she said.

Steffen says the nonprofit fair board doesn’t have the dollars right now for a big P-A system expansion.

So members decided to raise money with a photo of the carnival grounds with the funnel cloud in the background on a T-shirt.

The slogan on the shirt is “come for the funnel clouds, stay for the funnel cakes.”

Steffen says if they can sell enough at the upcoming fair, that begins June 27th, they’ll expand the announcement system.

Jim O’Leary, Central City Volunteer Fire Chief, says that change would make emergency responders happy too.

“I think it may have been something they were looking at for quite a long time. I think it maybe took last year to step it up a little bit more,” O’Leary said.

Steffen said last year’s close also reminded the fair there are no true storm shelters on the grounds either.

The one fair building damaged last year will be replaced by a pavilion that will meet a storm shelter designation.

Fair managers will install some extra P-A equipment in time for this year’s fair. But a full expansion will require selling enough of the fundraising shirts at $15.00 apiece.