Merced County Fair wraps up with few problems

Merced County Fair attendees "Saddled Up For Fun" this year without any major incidents of crime during the five-day event, law enforcement officials reported Monday.

The Merced County Sheriff's Department led security efforts inside the fair, with help from Merced County Probation Department officers and other agencies. Outside the fair gates, officers from the Merced Police Department's Traffic Division and Gang Violence Suppression Unit patrolled the streets, ensuring a safe event.

Sheriff's Department officials generally begin planning fair security and other large events, such as the Los Banos Spring Fair, around the beginning of the year. Merced County Fair spokeswoman Diane Conway said law enforcement's proactive planning definitely paid off.

"We meet before fair time with the security teams and the deputies," Conway said. "If they see anything that might become something, they nip it in the bud. We usually don't have any problems because they take care of it before it becomes a problem."

Fair officials are still calculating this year's fair attendance, a number that should be available later this week. Last year's fair attracted 65,469 people over six days.

In addition to relatively low crime, Conway said fair officials were blessed with excellent weather, as heat levels generally hovered around the 80s and 90s. Even with the best planning, Conway said extremely hot or cold weather can keep some residents at home.

"But this year it was just perfect," she remarked.

The Merced County Sheriff's Department reported two trespassing arrests, one possession of narcotics arrest, three misdemeanor warrant arrests, one battery arrest, six public intoxication arrests, one petty theft arrest and three arrests related to fighting, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, the sheriff's spokesman.

Last year, the department reported six public intoxication arrests, three felony warrant arrests, four arrests on misdemeanor arrest warrants, one misdemeanor failing to register as a sex offender arrest, one attempted robbery arrest and one misdemeanor spousal abuse arrest.

Outside the fair gates this year, Merced police made four DUI arrests, and eight arrests on suspicion of crimes ranging from public intoxication to narcotics possession and outstanding warrants. Police officers towed 43 vehicles and wrote 381 citations on suspicion of speeding and other violations, according to Sgt. Jay Struble. Struble said one auto theft was reported during the event.

Last year, Merced police wrote 364 citations, made four DUI arrests and towed 36 vehicles. The department's Gang Violence Suppression Unit arrested 19 people outside of the fair last year.

Managing Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or