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Safety Zone attracts fair-goers of all ages

CHP officer Josh McConnell hands out stickers at the Safety Zone attraction at the Madera District Fair on Friday during Kids Day. (Wendy Alexander)


The Madera District Fair, in recognition of Madera County’s first responders, has expanded on its popular Safety Zone attraction.

“When we think of community, obviously, it’s agencies like that which provide protection and serve our citizens,” said Madera District Fair events coordinator Barbara Leach.

Previously held in the skating rink of the Madera District Fairgrounds, this year, the Madera District Fair has provided the zone with a larger space in the middle of the fair. The zone, which is being held in a 40x80 ft. tent, also includes displays and information about eight different military, public safety, and law enforcement agencies, including the Madera Police Department, Cal Fire, Crime-Stoppers, the California Highway Patrol, and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers.

Vehicles for these agencies have also been put on display outside the tent, and school tours for the Safety Zone were also available to children on Kid’s Day on Friday.

“Kids love bracelets,” said Crime-Stoppers’ Milton Vann. “They love lanyards. And the parents like to come look at the boards, (and see) if they recognize anybody.”

According to Vann, the display has been helpful to Crime-Stoppers’ work as well.

“The people are aware of who Crime-Stoppers are, so they like to walk up and just look at the board and say ‘hello,’ and ‘thank you for what you’re doing,’” Van said. “In the long run, it does (help), because a lot of people have questions in regards to how the Crime-Stoppers program works, so we get to answer that question.”

The program was also a way for children to learn about safety through displays and demonstrations.

“Our programs are geared for kids,” said Pedro Garcia, a civilian worker with the U.S. Department of Defense, who ran a booth for the Corps. of Engineers. “At water safety, that teach them the importance of it.”

Garcia’s display featured the importance of wearing a life jacket, and offered brochures and tips for children.

The Safety Zone also attracted people interested in a careers as first responders. One of these was Michael Sotelo, 28, who works as an apartment manager. Possessing a lifelong fascination with criminology, he found the officer manning the California Highway Patrol booth helpful in answering his questions. All the while, a re-run of “CHiPs” played for those waiting to speak to the busy officer.

“He gave me some very useful information, actually contact information,” Sotelo said. “So I can reach out to him if I have any questions.”

The Safety Zone will remain open for the last two nights of the fair.

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