Monterey County

Security measures monitor crowds at California Rodeo Salinas Carnival

Carnival operators say strict requirements make rides safe

SALINAS, Calif. - Rides, games and carnival food --they are all there for families looking for a good time during the California Rodeo Salinas. 

But we're also learning there are a lot of security measures in place to make sure everyone is safe. 

Salinas Police have a mobile command unit set up, complete with a surveillance camera on top, monitoring the carnival for anything suspicious. There also are safety checks and balances for the rides.

Carnival operators said there are strict requirements making sure these 32 rides are safe --  through an inspection and permitting process run by the state of California.

"A handful of times a year we have a permit inspection, a bunch of unannounced inspections, so they're on all the time," said Brass Ring Amusements Inc. CEO Harry Mason. "e have a fire inspection every week, and a health inspection every week because we move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction."

From licensing to background checks, operators said about 50 workers are screened the same as they would be for any other job.  This isn't their first rodeo.  This company contracts with 20 county fairs throughout the state.  

"Employees come to work, it's like any job," Mason said. "They fill out an application, you call and get a reference.  We do a 290 background check on all of our employees to make sure we don't have any registered sex offenders."

Potential employees must also go through a pre-employment drug screening, and then they're subject to a random drug screening after that, Mason said.

Carnival organizers said at any point there are up to eight police officers patrolling the grounds to make sure everyone is safe.  Police patrol for anyone wearing gang attire, for instance -- and if attendees are caught wearing signs of gang involvement, they're asked to take it off.

"We've got folks coming in through a controlled entrance," said California Rodeo Carnival director Tim Baldwin. "They watch out for gang paraphernalia, and make sure folks aren't wearing inappropriate apparel while in here."

Rodeo volunteers said the carnival is more family friendly and doesn't have the thrill rides typically popular with teenagers.  The carnival is a long-standing tradition and a driving financial source behind the rodeo's activities during Big Week.

"It raises money for the California Rodeo. It helps us put on a world class, large, outdoor, PRCA sanctioned rodeo," Baldwin said.

Attendance at the carnival is much higher toward the end of the week.  That's when organizers said there are more hands on deck, to monitor the crowd.

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