Changes to SantaCaliGon Days address safety concerns after 2021 shooting

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 10:17 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KCTV) - There are some big changes coming to SantaCaliGon Days in Independence this Labor Day.

The changes come after four people were shot in the carnival last year. The three 16-year-olds and 25-year-old survived the shooting. The very next day, police and organizers at the Chamber of Commerce began discussing ways to prevent it in the future. On Tuesday, the Chamber announced a list of new restrictions.

“We feel like we’ve come up with some good solutions that not only make it safer, but will make it more enjoyable for families to come to SantaCaliGon,” said Independence Chamber of Commerce President Tom Lesnak.

He said the problem last year involved large groups of unsupervised teenagers who typically milled around rather than getting on the rides.

“I know kids want to have a place to hang out and they want to have a place to go,” said Taylor. “It’s fun for them and I get it. But, it’s not fun when we have incidents like that.”

Even before last year, the environment in the later hours had become one that kept families away after dark.

“We’ve had fights. We’ve had other things, just general mischief,” said Independence Police Officer Jack Taylor. “When you have that many kids in one place, people start feeding off of each other and things just start getting out of control fairly quickly.”

Until this year, the one square block that held the carnival rides and games was open. You could walk in from any sidewalk.

This year, they will be gating off that area and allowing entry only from one point.

“That allows us to keep an eye on who is gathering at the carnival, how many people are coming in to the carnival,” explained Taylor. “People can’t just walk in from all sides of the carnival.”

People coming for the rides will no longer be able to buy single-ride tickets inside. Instead, an unlimited ride wristband will be required to enter.

Anyone under the age of 18 will be have to be accompanied by an adult chaperone. In addition, backpacks and large bags will be prohibited in the carnival area.

“I’m all for it,” said parent Michelle Robinson.

She went to the event with her kids for the first time last year and heard the gunfire as she was leaving.

“It keeps the mischief down,” she said. “We need some structure. And, if this is what it takes, then hey. People should learn how to act like they got some sense when they’re gathering and not put everybody else at risk.”

She said she’s had to pay for wristbands at other fairs and festivals, so she’s used to it and considers it easier to budget than individual ride tickets.

Lesnak said the chamber, police and city council put a lot of thought into trying to find a balance, considering that the larger festival - which takes up nine square blocks - takes place on public streets. The chamber calls the event the oldest and largest free festival in the region, drawing 300,000 visitors.

That distinction is what prompted the city council to fine tune the ordinance Monday night before passing it. Adults who are bringing their kids but do not want to enjoy the carnival rides themselves will only need to buy wristbands for the kids, not themselves.

“We don’t want to make it so restrictive that a family could not enjoy the carnival because an adult was forced to purchase an armband when they have no intention of riding the rides,” said Lesnak.

He added that all the other activities at the festival remain free.

A discount will be available for those who purchase wristbands in advance. If purchased prior to 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2, a wristband will cost $25 per person per day. After that, the price goes up to $35. Click here to purchase wristbands.

Go to the SantaCaliGon Days website for details on events, including hours and a list of musical performers.

Previous coverage:

SantaCaliGon Days Festival to require adult chaperones for those under 18

Independence city leaders discuss shooting at SantaCaliGon Days Festival

Witnesses describe chaos after shooting at SantaCaliGon, some call for increased security

3 teens and 1 adult shot at SantaCaliGon Days in Independence