GENEVA – While answering questions at an Aug. 19 Committee of the Whole meeting about the Festival of the Vine, Geneva Chamber of Commerce President Paula Schmidt said there would be extra security in response to “things going on" – meaning recent mass shootings across the country.
“With all the things going on – if things can happen at a garlic festival, it can happen at Festival of the Vine,” Schmidt said.
She was referring to a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival July 28 in Gilroy, Cal., where three people were killed, including two children, and 13 others were injured.
The following weekend, there were mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
This year is the 40th Festival of the Vine, from Sept. 6-8.
With its extensive wine samplings, music, food and activities, the annual gala, hosted by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, draws thousands of people. In 2015, chamber officials estimated 75,000 people came over the three days.
Cognizant of recent events, Schmidt said the chamber will pay for more fencing this year to enclose the port-a-potties and the ticket booths, giving organizers a better way to control who is coming in and out.
“Everyone will have walkie-talkies this year,” Schmidt said. “So we’re just trying to make it a little safer for everyone. As they were saying, ‘Don’t put your head in the sand, it can happen anywhere.’ And I don’t want it to happen on my watch. So we’re trying our best to try to control things a little bit more.”
Earlier this month, Amnesty International issued a travel advisory for those coming to the U.S. due to “ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country,” according to its website, www.amnestyusa.org.
“Avoid places where large numbers of people gather, especially cultural events, places of worship, schools and shopping malls,” the advisory stated.
Geneva Police Cmdr. Brian Maduzia said he could not comment on what Schmidt or anyone else said about safety at the festival. But Maduzia said the department provides extensive security for every festival and large public gathering in the city.
“We are very much aware of what is going on in the world,” Maduzia said. “We always evaluate each special event in Geneva on its own. We don’t always do same things every year. We are always adapting and changing a whole host of things.”
Maduzia said he would not get into specifics in how police do things, but that every year, each event is evaluated and security tactics are changed and updated for each one.
“You have to be able to live your life and enjoy yourself, taking these things seriously – the safety and security of events,” Maduzia said.