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Changes to Erie County Fair veteran's and firemen's celebrations sparks controversy

Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 09:42:08-04

HAMBURG, NY (WKBW) — If you are a veteran or firefighter, or have a family member who is one, you may notice some changes at the Erie County Fair this year.

The fair is discontinuing the dugouts and parades for safety purposes.

"It is a big dishonor in my opinion to not allow this to continue,” firefighter and veteran John Farrell said. “It would be so nice if the fair rethought this and honored the veterans and firemen with the recognition they dearly deserve."

Farrell said he has been going to the Erie County Fair his whole life and this decision caught him off guard.

"I don't understand where there's a liability or a safety issue,” Farrell said. “It befuddles me."

The Erie County fair said it has no choice but to make these decisions because of liability issues. Jessica Underberg is CEO of the Erie County Agricultural Society and said it's all about keeping people safe.

"We look at the situation knowing we want to support and honor the veterans and firemen,” Underberg said. “We just want to find a safer way to do that."

Underberg said there have been multiple instances over the years which led to this decision.

"A number of people has asked about those types of examples, just know it’s not something you'd want your family to be around,” Underberg said.

Now, Underberg said their offices have received multiple threats. She said it's a small group of people making the threats, but it is still shocking.

"We put security systems in our offices, locked our doors,” Underberg said. “This is something I would've never expected from this group of folks."

Each fire company is required to have liability insurance to cover any issues at the fair, but Underberg said the fair still gets named in lawsuits if an issue arises.

She said they are still honoring veterans and firemen, but in different ways this year.

"Do I think we are going to bring back dugouts and parades? No, I don't. Not in the way we had it in the past,” Underberg said.

"They call themselves ‘America’s Fair,’ well its decidedly un-American not to celebrate those who sacrificed so much, in my opinion,” Farrell said.