The volunteer spirit and soul of the Washington community were demonstrated Saturday night as everyone worked together to prevent a possible catastrophe when a severe storm pounded the Washington Fairgrounds, Mayor Sandy Lucy said.
Lucy and several city council members, along with other city officials, were at the command center at the Fair when fairgoers were evacuated prior to when the major storm struck about 9 p.m.
When the storm lashed the fairgrounds, all patrons either had been evacuated or were housed in shelters.
“It was unbelievable,” Mayor Lucy said at Monday night’s council meeting. “It was controlled chaos, but no one lost their cool.
“I was astounded and proud,” she remarked, thanking the Fair Board members and emergency personnel for making the decision to evacuate the grounds as the major storm was approaching from the west.
Her remarks came after she told the council how in recent weeks she had listened to praise for the community from various groups and individuals who visited here, including members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, America in Bloom and a national AARP representative.
“They all say what a phenomenal city we have. How clean and kept up it is and how friendly the people are,” Lucy said.
“I’m proud to sit in this seat. We have had years and years of great leadership and dedicated city employees,” she continued. “We owe so much to the people who came before us. And not only the citizens but the organizations we have in this town.
“That all culminated Saturday night,” Mayor Lucy commented.
She also thanked the citizens for the orderly way in which they evacuated the fairgrounds prior to the major part of the storm hitting.
City Administrator Jim Briggs expressed “kudos” to the Fair Board and crews that got the fairgrounds back in shape in time to reopen on Sunday.
“The city offered all the help we could give with street department and parks department crews,” Briggs said.
“It was amazing,” Briggs noted. “It didn’t look like a storm ever came through.”
Council members echoed those remarks.
Tim Brinker said that the NIMS (National Incident Management System) training that city emergency personnel, city officials and Fair Board members took “paid off in one night.”
Steve Sullentrup thanked the council for supporting the project to build a new permanent entertainment and event stage at the fairgrounds.
“I think the money we paid to put the stage together probably saved some lives,” he commented.
The Fair Board had discussed constructing a permanent stage facility for years, but accelerated the planning after the disaster at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 13, 2011, when a temporary stage collapsed, killing seven and injuring another 43 people.