Keep your kids close at the fair

Published 8:44 am Friday, October 23, 2015

Fairs are some of the most fun-filled times for families. Children’s eyes are wide with expectation as they try and figure out the best way to maneuver around to get to each thrilling ride.

We often see a lot of that excitement at the annual Washington Parish Fair currently running at the Washington Parish Fairgrounds in Franklinton, and at the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport. Thursday was the first day for the state fair. The state fair runs through Nov. 8.

Children’s safety is and should be the priority of every parent and/or guardian during these outings. After arrival on the midway, it’s imperative for parents to keep in close contact with their children.

After reading various tips regarding children’s safety during fairs, I’d like to add my own top safety suggestion. It came about from my own personal experience at the Mississippi State Fair a lifetime or two ago. I believe I was in the neighborhood of 8 or 9 years old at the time.

Parents should always walk behind their children. There is always going to be one child who lags behind and enjoys looking at things that catch their eye and loses sight of the group. That happened to be me on this particular occasion. I was looking down, trying not to step in a hole.

I remember walking through the gate with a large crowd milling around. Somehow, I lost sight of my family almost immediately.

The next hour or so was filled with as many anxious moments as I have ever experienced to this day. Fifty years later, the experience is still fresh.

I walked up and down the midway at least four times, trying to find my family with no luck. I now realize the horror Kevin McCallister must have felt in the “Home Alone” movies. Every time, I made it to one end of the midway without spotting my family. I continuously noticed an Indian woman watching a game of chance on the midway. Back and forth and back and forth again, there she was.

I didn’t have the wherewithal to check in at the nearest Lost Parents Department the Jackson Police usually had set up for just these types of situations. Parents should teach their kids that police departments have these places set up for emergencies.

My father eventually found me, and that feeling of dread abated. I stuck with them for the remainder of the evening.

I should have learned something from that experience. Another experience with losing my group was at 18 when I attended my first musical concert at the Mississippi Coliseum. ZZ Top was the hot group at the time. I went with three other friends in one of their cars. I again got separated from the group the moment we got inside. I never found them.

When the concert was over, I exited the Coliseum the opposite side from where I went in. Walking around the parking lot, I had people I knew ask me if I needed a ride back to McComb. I told them I’d find the car soon enough. I didn’t.

I eventually called for a cab to take me to the bus station. I had $5 left, and the bus ticket cost $4.88. The next bus was to leave out at 1 a.m., so I sat on the bench and waited. And went to sleep. The next bus out was at 4 a.m. I got back home in McComb at 7 a.m.

Regarding fairs and children, a suggestion I endorse is having a meeting place, just in case parents, children or friends become separated. For younger children, another suggestion is placing a written note containing the child’s name, parents’ names, parents’ cell phone number and address in the pocket of the child.

Fairs and fun should be one and the same. Preparation in a time of emergency will keep it that way.

Randy Hammons is a staff writer for the Daily News. He can be reached by calling 985-732-2565 or by email at