First-responders prepare for the 76th National Peanut Festival

Multiple first-responders, volunteers, and festival board members participated in safety training exercise Friday at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds. The mock exercise involved a ride becoming stuck and one of riders suffering from a medical emergency.

The National Peanut Festival opened Friday with the National Peanut Festival officials expecting about 200,000 people to attend during the 10-day festival.

With people traveling from all over the Southern portion of the United States, festivalgoers’ safety is at the top of this list for first responders, festival board members and Dothan and Houston County officials.

Dothan Fire Department Deputy Chief Chris Etheredge, National Peanut Festival safety officer Scott Palmer and Reithoffer Shows safety officer Jeff Alberts have been working together for months in efforts of making sure everyone is on the same page if an emergency occurs at the fairgrounds.

“All across the United States, festivals are held and we have taken incidents that occurred at other festival and applied them to our training to make sure we are prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Etheridge said.

On Friday, local first responders and festival board members gathered for two safety training sessions, beginning with a tabletop gathering that allowed everyone in attendance a chance to go over safety procedures.

“Our goal by hosting this training is to make we are all on the same page and we all know what to do in case of an emergency situation,” Palmer said.

The group then headed to the midway for the second training session — a mock ride rescue involving a medical issue.

“The goal of this training is to make sure all the kinks are worked out and everyone knows their role to make sure we arrive to location quickly, rescue the person needing assistance quickly and safely, and quickly treat the medical emergency,” Etheridge said. “The goal of every training exercise is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and I believe everyone who has participated in this training from the Dothan Police Department, Dothan Fire Department, Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Pilcher’s Ambulance and festival board members are ready and prepared to address any emergency situation.”

This year’s event is the 76th festival, and, according to Palmer, the National Peanut Festival has never had any significant emergency situations arise.

Dothan police Lt. Pepper Mock is one of many law enforcement officers who participated in Friday’s training exercises.

“Every year we have thousands of individuals attend the Peanut Festival,” he said. “Our goal in law enforcement is to make sure everyone obeys the laws while having a good time at the Peanut Festival. I want to remind all parents to make sure they keep a close eye on their children. We will have officers spaced throughout the festival so parents need to make sure their children know to seek a law enforcement officer if they get separated from their parents. We will have a lost-child booth as well.”

Mock also urges parents to take a photo of their child before arriving at the festival.

“By parents taking photos of their child before arriving at the festival, not only do we have a most recent photo of the child, but we have a description of the clothing they have on,” he said. “You can never have too much information when searching for a child who has gotten separated from their parents. Plus, when a parent and a child get separated, the parent is upset and scared, and sometimes remembering what their child wore is impossible.”

This year’s festival will consist of multiple forms of entertainment, food selections, vendor items, shows and 55 rides to be enjoyed by all in attendance.

For a list of daily entertainment and ticket prices, visit the National Peanut Festival website at national peanutfestival.com.

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