Background checks conducted on all Washington State Fair ride operators

PUYALLUP - Police say if you’re planning on going to the Washington State Fair, you don’t have to worry. They’ve stepped up security measures to keep kids safe.

The Washington State Fair has rides that spin and rides that soar. But it takes hundreds of people to keep those rides moving.

“It’s really difficult, because in this type of business, you’re hiring right before the fair starts,” say fair spokesperson Karen LaFlamme. “So it’s a real, tight turnaround.”

They have to make sure that the ride and game operators aren’t a danger to kids. Last year, three fair workers were let go when it was discovered that they were registered sex offenders. That’s a frightening thought for parents.

“It has crossed my mind, I’ve seen some of the stuff on the news over the years,” says Heather Dycus. “Different fairs, that there are some people who slip through.”

“I’ve never thought about that, but now that you mention it, it’s definitely a concern,” says Nancy Marriott. “Anytime you’ve got a ton of people at an event, you always wonder.”

Fair officials say parents don’t have to wonder this year. Funtastic, the company that operates the rides, has increased their security measures.

“They’ve enhanced the program, so all those who are hired are going through a background check,” says LaFlamme. “That is really above and beyond what other ride operators do in the country.”

Then there’s a secondary check by the Puyallup Police, with a special emphasis on those workers who are in direct contact with young children. LaFlamme says all workers passed those background checks before the fair opened.

But parents say they’re going to keep a close eye on their kids, just to be safe.

“We don’t let our kids go alone, it’s a family thing when we go to the fair,” says Marriott.

“It’s frightening, but that’s one of the reasons they don’t leave my sight,” says Dycus. “We’re here to have fun, not to worry.”

Two state legislators have said that they plan on introducing a bill in January that would make background checks mandatory for all fair workers in Washington.