The Douglas County Fair is always a great opportunity for my staff and me to interact with the public.
This year was no different. With all the things that have happened over the last year and a half and no fair last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The overwhelming message we received from the public was one of support for law enforcement, especially local law enforcement. I heard several stories about how well deputies had treated a person or their family during a traffic stop, traffic accident, medical call, or other call for service. There were nice comments about dispatchers, correctional officers and our records staff as well.
Many of my staff have been members of our community for years or even their whole life. That kind of connection shows in the positive way that community members feel about them.
The K-9 demonstrations are always a big draw at the fair. Deputy Bob Peper and K-9 Cain and Deputy Ben Jarvi and K-9 Hunter were there every evening to talk about the K-9’s and demonstrate their abilities. The spectators are always amazing, and it is fun to see the mixture of people that gather to watch. Old and young alike enjoy the show.
I enjoy the demos too, but I have seen a few dog demos over the years. For me, it is more entertaining to watch when things don’t go quite perfectly, but the handlers and K-9’s are able to quickly adjust and make it look flawless or like it was a planned part of the show.
Sometimes the K-9’s want to let their handler know who is actually in charge. Several years back during a K-9 demo at the fair, the K-9 was getting ready to do an agility exercise. He was heeled next to his handler and directly in his view was a young boy with a large cotton candy and a bunch of it on his face. Upon command, the K-9 ignored the agility exercise and shot forward toward the child. I felt a split-second of terror and then immediate relief when the K-9 licked the child’s face and then returned to his handler. The crowd loved it!
The positive interactions with young people at the fair, especially the little kids, are so important. On one of the days this year, Deputy Kaylen Berle was working at our fair booth. A mom and her 5- to 6-year-old daughter walked up to Kaylen. The mom explained that her daughter has told her she wants to be a police officer when she grows up. The little girl was looking at Kaylen the whole time, and mom went on to explain that her daughter had never seen a female officer in person before. Kaylen then went over to the little girl, knelt down and talked with her. The little girl was shy at first, but before her and her mom left, she tucked in close to Kaylen and mom got a picture of the two of them together. Those kinds of interactions are so valuable and rewarding.
It seems that it wouldn’t be the Douglas County Fair without a day of rain, and Friday provided us with that. Usually, people aren’t happy when it rains at the fair, but we needed it so badly that no one was complaining. It was another great year at the fair, and we are looking forward to next year!
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Troy Wolbersen is the Douglas County sheriff. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.