Nebraska State Fair aims to improve concert security and technology

2017 Nebraska State Fair "shatters" attendance records (NTV News)

The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history now affects Nebraska’s most popular event, as the State Fair balances security with visitor-friendly policies.

Record crowds created trouble in 2017, with bottlenecks and concert security checkpoints.

Executive Director Joseph McDermott said, “We're going to talk about checking bags and chairs and that kind of thing. That's truly what slows things down.”

While some venues limit bags, the fair is reluctant to do so.

They know visitors are coming for the day, and are bringing diaper bags, backpacks, and large purses, and buying more on the grounds.

One idea they tried at the last minute will expand.

“Without a doubt we will have walkthrough metal detectors,” McDermott said.

As the fair board holds its annual retreat, they discussed how to strike the right balance between safety and convenience.

The fair’s security director compared the Las Vegas concert shooting to 9/11 and similar to security for air travel, concertgoers need to understand new threats bring change.

McDermott said, “People arrive late, they arrive 15 minutes before the show and then they're subject to security. They don't get in by the time the concert starts and they’re upset. It's an educational process. We as concertgoers, fairgoers, we need to understand what it's going to take to keep us safe and secure.”

Fair board members also brainstorm ways to wow crowds.

Kirk Shane, vice chair of the board said, “There's only one way on the board and that's the NSF is going to get a lot better, we're going to have a lot more new ideas. We're rolling pretty good. Trying to make it more people-friendly and get people in here.”

And that includes getting a new executive director in, with McDermott retiring.

Fair board members plan to reach out this month to potential candidates.

One of their other goals is to improve technology. McDermott said they spent about $265,000 on their wireless network, which improves things for visitors but also allows the fair to push video to screens and kiosks around the grounds.

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