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Valley Journals

Annual Public Safety Fair continues to grow in Taylorsville, unite rivals

Jul 25, 2018 04:28PM ● By Carl Fauver

A veritable zoo full of mascots were seen but not heard at this year’s third annual Family Safety Fair, hosted by the Utah Department of Public Safety. (Utah DPS)

By Carl Fauver | carlf@mycityjournals.com 

It’s not often you see Swoop and Cosmo supporting the same thing. But the University of Utah and Brigham Young University cheerleaders did team up — along with a handful of other mascots — for the third annual Family Safety Fair, hosted by the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS). 

The ever-growing event — held outside DPS headquarters in Taylorsville (4501 South 2700 West) featured 95 information booths — a huge leap from the 65 last year — along with an estimated visitor turnout of more than 1,600 people. 

“I think we more than doubled our attendance from last year,” said event organizer Marge Dalton, who works for the state driver’s license division. “The attendance far exceeded our expectations. I’m glad so many families are taking an interest in learning ways to stay safe. That’s why we do it.” 

Dalton was the event’s assistant chairperson, serving Chairwoman Sherry McCusker. 

“In the three years this has been a public event, it has really grown,” DPS Public Affairs Director Marissa Cote said. “It has grown from about 35 booths two years ago, to 65 last year, to 95 this year. We have a lot of room outside our building, so there’s still more room for it to get even bigger in the years ahead.” 

Unified Police Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant believes his agency and others benefit because they are allowed to meet parents and kids in a no-stress situation, which is frequently not the case for emergency responders and the public. 

“It’s a great venue to get families and kids together, not only to provide education but also to offer interaction with various law enforcement agencies,” Wyant said. “(UPD) operated a booth and had equipment and vehicles on display. Our mascot, ‘Sgt. Siren,’ was also there.” 

For the record, the Unified Police Department’s Sgt. Siren mascot looks a lot like a sheepdog, while the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department mascot, Sgt. Lightning, looks suspiciously like a horse. 

“Besides mascots, the kids seemed to enjoy seeing the helicopters,” Cote said. “Our DPS helicopter was there, along with the University of Utah’s AirMed helicopter.”

The safety fair is funded each year through a Utah Labor Department grant.

“They have funding earmarked to educate the public about safety,” Cote said. “We do not allow any of the booths to charge people for anything. They are there strictly to provide free information. There were a couple of booths operated by for-profit companies, such as Hoopes Vision. But Safety Fair visitors didn’t have to pay for anything. We even provided a free meal to everyone who visited enough booths to fill up their stamp sheet.” 

Among the things featured at the booths were: an earthquake simulator, K9 drug and bomb-sniffing dogs and free baby car seat inspections. More than 1,400 visitors also signed pledges, promising they would not text and drive and would always wear seat belts. 

As organizers look ahead to next year’s fourth annual safety fair, they now hope to swing a wider net. 

“Nearly all of our booths have been operated by public safety agencies and businesses from here in Salt Lake County,” Cote said. “But the Department of Public Safety is a statewide agency, and we would love to draw more participants from Utah, Davis and Tooele counties. We want everyone in the state to learn more about safety.” 

“The safety fair began as something just for our employees and their families,” Dalton said. “But after just one year, we realized this information needs to be available to everyone. So we opened it to the public that second year. I’m excited to see how popular it is becoming, because the information is so important.” 

Dalton also believes a key to this year’s boost in attendance came in the form of banners her agency hung, advertising the fair on fences around Granite District schools. 

“This was our first year for the school banners,” she said. “I think they helped tremendously. We’re still experimenting with the best ways to get the word out about the fair. But after our jump in attendance this year, I think the school fence banners are here to stay.”