Thousands of hungry attendees will make plans to navigate the best parts of the International Bar-B-Q festival that is set to take place on May 10 and 11. Luckily, so will the Owensboro Police Department.
“We’ve been doing this for many years so there’s very few surprises anymore,” said OPD Sgt. Michael Page.
In the days leading up to the festival they work with the city and Public Works to close streets and post no parking signs, but the scheduling for additional staff starts weeks in advance.
Page said the department has an enhanced amount of officers at the festival, which they break down into sectors.
“Depending on the area, we can anticipate the kinds of problems and determine the number we need there,” Page said.
With years of practice, Page said it’s a system they’ve refined well.
“We’ve focused our energy to cut off issues before they really become issues,” he said. “Each year we review how it went and find solutions for any problems we had.”
Public Information Officer Andrew Boggess said the festival sees the things you might expect from a crowd that large.
“We get the occasional lost child, some thefts and a lot of lost property — where people just put something down and forget it,” Boggess said.
The officers encourage attendees to be mindful and keep valuables and bags on them at all times. Page urges parents to take a precaution in case they get separated from their children.
“When you get where you’re going, take a photo of your kids with your cell phone so you know exactly what they are wearing,” he said. “If the child has a phone, have them take a photo of you…so they can show us your picture instead of just describing you,” adding that the officers see nearly as many lost parents as they do children.
One thing that makes patrolling a crowd that large just a little easier is the help of The Citizens Police Academy Alumni. The group has completed an approximately 10-week program that educates them about the police department and gives them opportunities to volunteer.
At Bar-B-Q Festival, the volunteers man the barricades and secure all the access points. They also help enforce festival rules.
The help from those volunteers frees up officers to patrol the festival and be more visible, when otherwise they’d be working the barricades, Boggess said.
“We expect it to be another big event,” said Page. “We don’t expect any issues. Just come and know that you’ll be safe, and if you need anything we’ll take care of you.”
*Editor’s note: This article was edited to reflect the dates of the International Bar-B-Q Festival.