There were law enforcement and emergency personnel, firefighters and fire trucks, ambulances, games, and fun, as area youth got to learn about health and safety at this year’s Healthy and Safe Summer Fair.
The fair, which was held at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna on May 29, dates back to 2005 when the local Shriner’s chapter had the thought to educate young people on health and safety before summer gets underway.
This free event offered time for families and children ages 3-12 to become aware of crucial safety topics. Educational activities included car seat checks, water safety, identification cards, teddy bear check-up, fire safety, bicycle rodeo, K-9 Unit demonstration, State Patrol helicopter landing and more.
“I think of it as a kickoff to summer,” Glenn Lyden of Mayo Clinic Department of Public Affairs said. “It’s a good reminder for everybody that you need to think about preparing and preventing injuries.”
Lyden noted that emergency personnel do more than respond to calls, and they look to educating citizens on safe behavior. “For kids, summer is a season of being outside,” he said. “We want to make sure that they’re wearing seatbelts and wearing protective gear like helmets.”
He also sees a lot of importance in keeping the event fun for all involved. “Kids especially learn a little bit better when it’s a fun experience, and we want to build the safety aspect into that,” Lyden said.
“It’s huge,” Lyden said of the cooperation between different organizations that goes into the event each year. “It really does show that it takes a village and it shows how many people are involved in making a community safe.”
Shelby Taylor, one the numerous emergency personnel on hand to help educate kids and families, works as an EMT in Steele County and was able to explain some of her work and the work of her peers. “We all contribute to the health and safety of those within our communities,” Taylor said.
“Honestly, it’s not down to the money, it’s down to the fact that we’re in this job to help people,” Taylor said of the rewarding nature of their work. “Even the most miniscule amount of help we’re able to offer someone is more rewarding than any financial compensation.”
“It’s more than lights and sirens,” Lyden said of the work that emergency and law enforcement personnel do. “There’s some calls their running where they’re doing very advanced medical treatment and some of it is just comfort.”
Steele County Gold Cross operates with a fleet of four ambulances and runs three crews at a max and each ambulance is typically staffed with two personnel, one who will drive and the other who is able to sit in the back and administer medical treatment to the patient.
“We do trips basically all throughout any southern site for the Mayo Clinic,” Taylor explained. “Our ER here in Owatonna is actually Allina Health so they do a lot of transfers up to the Twin Cities as well.”
Community Engagement official Stephanie Olson detailed the origin of the event. “The Shriners approached us to see if we could do something for their children and then it evolved to a community-wide event.”
According to Olson, the fair can see anywhere from 250 to 500 people on any given year. “It will go on rain or shine because the building’s so big so you can just pull everything inside,” she said, referring to the Four Seasons Centre.
“I think one of the greatest things is that it demonstrates community collaboration and our commitment from all venues of safety whether it be health, or fire, or police department,” she said. “It’s all about safety, and it’s a collaboration. It’s definitely grown over the years.”
Olson credited the many organizations within the community with being able to pull together and put on the event. “The Sheriff was instrumental in getting this going,” she said of Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele. “He was excited and engaged.”
Thiele and his fellow county law enforcement personnel walked the fairgrounds and weaved in and out of the Four Seasons building during the fair. “Everyone together here is showing what kind of public safety we offer to the community,” he said. “It helps the children so they can not be afraid of seeing a police officer or a firefighter. We want to be able to mingle with them and talk to one another.”
“This is a teamwork effort of public safety, all of these entities work well with one another and they all work well with the community and working with the children, and that’s what it’s all about.” Sheriff Thiele said. “This is the fun part, when you can work with the children and see the smiles on their faces.”