Can security measures build trust in large fairs?

Every August, Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park undergoes a remarkable transformation, becoming the vibrant playground for the “6 Best Days of Summer.”

Written by Funmi Oyatogun
Director of Signature Events, Prairieland

The Saskatoon Exhibition, fondly called “The Ex,” had its inaugural event in 1886 and has remained a cherished annual tradition for the last 137 years. It’s a cultural cornerstone for our province, offering a routine pilgrimage for fairgoers who relish thrilling rides, delicious food, lively markets, captivating animal shows, and exhilarating concerts. Behind the scenes at Prairieland, we meticulously plan to ensure safety for our staff, community, and 200,000+ patrons. Though safety has always been a core concern, this year, our security program received an unprecedented enhancement.

Introducing walk-through scanners

The prevailing reality is that large-scale events demand enhanced security measures in today’s world, and our annual fair served as a great opportunity to introduce a new and robust security program. Many people now expect security scanners at airports, concerts and, more recently, at fairs. Our implementation of walk-through scanners and metal detector wands played a pivotal role in our efforts to identify and flag restricted items, bolstering our commitment to maintaining a safe environment within the park.

Our security process consisted of a two-step procedure: a walk-through scanner followed by a bag search, in the event that no metals were detected. For those with detected metals, a wand search was conducted. To accommodate families who often bring large bags, wagons, wheelchairs, or strollers, we allocated a dedicated lane, ensuring a smoother entry process for these guests. We aimed for thoroughness without causing traffic bottlenecks at the fair’s entrances. While there were occasional queues during peak hours, fairgoers responded positively to the need for these measures.

Safety as a whole, not just security

In addition to the new walk-through scanners, we revitalized many of our enduring initiatives to enhance the overall safety and well-being of our cherished fairgoers.

  1. Security Personnel: For years, our fairgrounds have hosted a dedicated police station, serving as a command post for the police department ensuring patron safety during the event. This year, we expanded our security team, featuring additional uniformed personnel at the entrances and our trusted ‘yellow-shirts’ who manage admissions and traffic.

  2. Lost Kids’ Program: Our complimentary Circle K Lost Kids’ team equips children with wristbands upon arrival, bearing contact information for their parents, should they become temporarily separated from their groups.

  3. Health and Well-being: Fire and medical services are continuously on standby to address unforeseen emergencies. Numerous water fountains and misting stations are scattered across the grounds to help patrons stay hydrated and cool on hot days.

  4. Midway and Ride Safety: Partnering with North American Midway Entertainment (NAME), the world’s largest travelling outdoor amusement park, we ensure that our fair rides adhere to rigorous inspections, staying current with provincial and national safety standards.

  5. Robust Communication: Hundreds of radios are deployed among staff with dedicated channels for specific concerns, facilitating quick and efficient communication across our vast 136-acre fairgrounds.

  6. Industry Standards for HSE: We uphold industry standards for health, safety, and environmental practices, including food safety, alcohol consumption regulations, muster points, and more. Food vendors at the Saskatoon EX adhere to strict regulations, with regular inspections to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. Our commitment extends to cleanliness, sanitation, waste management, disinfectant routines, and chemical control. We also maintain a lost and found service.

  7. Respect: Our professional security officials are not just vigilant but also culturally sensitive, recognizing and respecting diverse cultural, religious, and social nuances to ensure everyone is treated with dignity.

Did it work?

This year marked a milestone in safety at the Saskatoon EX. We are proud to report zero security incidents, injuries, or accidents. Our security program effectively intercepted any potential threats, ensuring the safety and peace of mind of all fairgoers.

The Canadian fairgoer is eagerly anticipating a future where events and fairs are not merely responsive but proactively committed to safety. At The Saskatoon Ex, we take immense pride in our contributions to this vision. Our commitment to safety ensures a future where trust is mutual, service goes the extra mile, and patrons can immerse themselves in festivities without a hint of unease. Collectively, we all play a pivotal role in upholding the standard of safety.

As we look to next year, The EX will continue to raise the bar for safety and usher in a future filled with excitement and trust.

Prairieland welcomes over 1.5 million visitors each year to our convention center in Saskatoon, hosting a wide array of client events and self-produced Signature Events. Our overarching vision is to enrich diverse communities by delivering extraordinary experiences through premier events and world-class facilities.