The sun managed to peek out from behind the clouds just in time to shine on the first-ever Summer Safety Fair/Law Day event in the north parking lot of the Minot Municipal Auditorium Tuesday afternoon.
Although the Summer Safety Fair and Law Day events have been held separately in the past, this is the first time they've been held at the same time. The event is sponsored by the Minot Police Department and Safe Communities of North Central Dakota.
Because this was basically two events being held at the same time, there was a wealth of activities for children to take part in and just as much safety information for their parents to bring home.
Senior Patrolman Dave Chapman and Saiber, police dog with the Minot Police Department’s K9 unit, enjoy some attention from several children at the Summer Safety Fair/Law Day event held Tuesday in the north parking lot of the Minot Municipal Auditorium. Along with Saiber, the police department’s bomb squad and SWAT Team were also in attendance.
A youngster takes a ride on the ATV simulator at the Summer Safety Fair/Law Day Tuesday afternoon. The simulator was used to show children what it would be like to ride a full-size ATV, and show their parents how much growing they have to do before they can safely ride one.
Sgt. Margie Zietz of the Minot Police Department said Law Day had previously been held at Dakota Square Mall on one of the last Saturdays of the month, but attendance had been decreasing even though the police department came out in full force for the event.
"We'd always have our SWAT Team, we would have our bomb robots, our bomb truck, we had all our tools and Saiber, our police dog, and we just didn't have the audience as much at the mall," said Zietz. "We already had a great focus group that would always come every year to our annual Summer Safety Fair anyhow, so we thought, 'Oh great.' So I kind of took it upon myself to say, hey let's combine them this year. We already have 400 to 1,000 that come, we'll have one big event, it'll be a great way for the law enforcement to deal right with the kids, too."
"I think more importantly, is that we are getting that positive contact with the kids. And just the typical citizen probably doesn't know we have two bomb robots over there, our bomb squad, our SWAT Team's got their equipment over there, we have our Disaster Emergency Trailer over there," Zietz continued.
"It makes sense that we'd buddy up and do this together because we work together on all of our different prevention efforts and everything that we do," said Tess Bossert, injury prevention specialist with First District Health Unit and Safe Communities chairperson.
Although the two bomb robots, which rolled around handing out drinks to children, were extremely popular, they were given a run for their money by Senior Patrolman Dave Chapman and Saiber. The large police dog was constantly being swarmed by children eager to give him a few pets. For the most part, Saiber let his admirers do what they wanted around him, although he did give a few abrupt and loud challenging barks when McGruff the Crime Dog strayed too close. The mascot wisely scurried away in the opposite direction after realizing he had wandered into Saiber's territory.
Along with the law enforcement presence, there was also a jump castle, giant inflatable slide, ATV simulator, bicycle registration, bicycle safety checks by Val's Cyclery, music, food, and many other booths scattered around the parking lot.
Perhaps the most popular attraction of all was the free bicycle helmet fitting by First District Health Unit.
"And then they're also watching a video for the parents because if Margie and I were to sit here and fit all these helmets today, that's fine but what happens when the kids grow? Or what happens when they do one of these, and adjust it, then the parents don't know how (to readjust it)?" Bossert said, making the motion of yanking on a helmet strap to tighten it. "So what we're doing is we're trying to get the kids buying in as to why they should wear a helmet, but then we're educating the parents as to how to properly secure those helmets."
The Golden K Kiwanis helped provide some of the bike helmets that were given away.
Next to the helmet fitting booth was the bike course, which was run by the police department's bike patrol.
And that only scratches the surface of everything that was going on.
"We were really lucky, we got the art students from Magic City Campus and Central Campus to do face painting for the kids," Bossert said.
Bossert mentioned there is also an ATV safety course May 27 at Pure Honda, with the first 20 children who show up and complete the course getting a free ATV helmet.
Zietz and Bossert expected anywhere from 600 to 1,000 people to show up for the event. Zietz said they held it earlier than usual to catch all the children before school lets out and they start riding their bikes.
"We moved up the event sooner, during the school year, because we got all the flyers out to all the schools. Usually we don't do it till the first Tuesday in June, which by then the kids are already riding their bikes for two months, so that was one reason we wanted to push it up a little closer," said Zietz. "That way we could combine it with Law Day."
While there are a number of entities who helped make the event possible, Bossert said much of the funding to hold it came from St. Joseph's Community Health Foundation.
"They've granted us a bunch of money so we could buy different safety equipment," said Bossert.
Tom and Tracey Slama of Minot brought their two children, Edward, 7, and Joshua, 6, to the event.
"They got a flyer in school so we figured we'd come out," Tom said. "They wanted to see some of this bike stuff, see some of the (police) cars and the robots."
"It's family time," Tracey added.
When Tom asked Joshua why he wanted to come, the shy 6-year-old gave an answer most parents are very familiar with.
"I don't know," Joshua said as his parents laughed.
Edward said he enjoyed seeing the bomb robots most of all, while Tracey said Joshua probably liked the bounce castle the best.
"He keeps asking to go back," she said.
Kim Flaten of Burlington was there with her 1 1/2-year-old son Aaron. She said she'd probably be joined later by her 5-year-old son, Nick, who was buying her a last-minute birthday present.
"We just kind of thought we'd come and kind of see what it was about and check out helmets for our kids and see about licensing bikes and all that stuff," Flaten said.
Flaten was interested in looking at the various booths for the police and sheriff's departments, as well as getting some balloons for her children. She also mentioned Nick rides a three-wheeler, so she had some questions to ask at the ATV simulator.
Getting parents involved with their children's safety habits is exactly the kind of thing Zietz and Bossert wanted to see Tuesday. Along with that, another goal Zietz had was to make the children who attended more comfortable around law enforcement. It's a goal she seemed well on her way to achieving.
"It helps the kids get used to the law enforcement, I think," Tracey Slama said. "Getting acquainted with them and all the different things they have."