Promoters say stage safety is top priorityBryan Schulz has phone numbers for several meteorologists on speed dial. When bad weather threatens, the general manager of the Red River Valley Fair said he is in constant touch with the experts, weighing what steps need to be taken.
By: By Dave Olson, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
WEST FARGO — Bryan Schulz has phone numbers for several meteorologists on speed dial.
When bad weather threatens, the general manager of the Red River Valley Fair said he is in constant touch with the experts, weighing what steps need to be taken.
“We have a great working relationship with our weather centers around here,” said Schulz, adding that given how suddenly the weather can change early warnings are critical to outdoor events.
Just how critical was made clear last weekend, he said, referring to the Indiana State Fair, where the superstructure of an outdoor stage collapsed under strong wind gusts.
Five people died.
When it comes to making sure that shows at the Red River Valley Fair remain safe, Schulz said he places his confidence in Theatrical Media Services, the Omaha, Neb., company that does staging for the fair.
“They’ve been doing it for quite a long time and we take every precaution,” said Schulz.
Heavy concrete barriers anchor the fair’s outdoor stage and Schulz said the roof can be raised or lowered, depending on weather conditions.
He said while it is rare for weather to shut down events, it happened in 2008, during his first year on the job.
An afternoon storm blew items off the stage. And while things were put quickly to rights, the continued threat of stormy weather prompted a shutdown of the night’s events, according to Schulz.
News of the disaster in Indiana spread quickly through the promotional world, said Mark Martens, stage consultant for events at WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Martens said he couldn’t say with certainty what went wrong in Indiana, but he does know what went right.
He said it appeared from images of the collapse that the stage had a roof designed to spill air during times of high wind and that’s what it did.
“The fabric did do its job and the top opened up,” Martens said.
While many venues typically have wind gauges, Martens said WE Fest also has off-site monitors. “We know what’s getting to us before it actually gets there,” he said.
Martens said the WE Fest stage is anchored by concrete pilings buried in the ground and the steel roof is engineered to withstand high stresses.
Randy Levy, a WE Fest spokesman, said welds are checked yearly and improvements are made to the stage and roof on a regular basis, including a roof replacement a few years ago.
Levy said the investigation into the Indiana incident will be interesting to follow, particularly in regards to the roof, the loads placed on it and the support given to it.
“It didn’t appear to us, from first view, that they had this roof grounded in different places,” Levy said.
Dave Olson is a reporter at
The Forum of Fargo Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.