The Virgil Stampede had two days of perfect weather, record-setting attendance, record food sales, and lots of very positive feedback, with more people in attendance than they would normally see over three days, says organizer Richard Wall.
As president of the Virgil Business Association, which has been putting on the event for decades, Wall says the entertainment was phenomenal, with lots to see and do, especially for the families the event is geared to attract.
He received many positive comments at the food booths about both quality and prices, he says, and they were sold out of almost everything by the time the fireworks started.
“Phil (Leboudec, of Phil’s Your Independent Grocer) does a great job of figuring out how much food we need, but all we had left at the end of the evening was a few hot dogs.”
This year’s event, however, also had some unfortunate incidents to deal with, says Wall.
In his recap of the weekend, he says he can’t ignore some trouble that occurred Monday night, as a huge crowd of people surged into the park just before the fireworks were to begin.
In recent years he’s had to hire security for the event, and increased it this year, going with a very reputable company who had a good plan to keep it orderly.
But it wasn’t enough to prevent one knife incident, with police called and one person ejected from the park; a separate incident with a group of teens wearing ski masks pepper-spraying two young people, one of them requiring an ambulance to take him to a hospital; and a couple of fights that had to be broken up.
One carnival employee said she saw a group of teens drinking alcohol, which should have been confiscated at the gate, says Wall.
The problem was that the security people were called to the soccer field to clear it for the fireworks, leaving nobody at the gates as more kids piled in, and then trouble began in other areas — security was stretched too thin to deal with everything that was happening in the last hour or so before the fireworks started.
“We’re already having discussions about what we can do for next year. We were pleased with the company we hired this year. They had a good presence, and it worked well pretty much of the weekend. But there was a large influx of people just before the fireworks, and we didn’t have enough bodies.”
Wall said he saw lots of teenagers at the park enjoying the events, having fun, going on rides, “doing normal teenaged stuff, but it just takes just a few exceptions to spoil it.”
On the positive side, he says, he loved walking around the park seeing the number of families with kids, young ones in strollers, enjoying the best slate of family entertainment they’ve ever had, getting their faces painted, and going on pony rides.
The new rock-climbing attraction was also very popular, and the skatepark demonstration put together a great show.
“That’s what keeps me coming back and doing this every year, seeing everyone having so much fun,” says Wall.
“And the fireworks — what an amazing show. At least 16 to 18 minutes long, with a spectacular finale. Overall, it was a great weekend.”