'There are spectators that come from every state in the U.S.'

RANTOUL — Rantoul police Lt. Alex Meyer likens it to a University of Illinois home football game. But the game lasts for four days.

Meyer said like a Big Ten grid contest, traffic will be streaming into Rantoul from all directions for this week’s Half Century of Progress farm show on the grounds of the Rantoul National Aviation Center. Keeping the bottleneck down to a minimum is the work of Rantoul police officers and other paid traffic controllers who are brought in to help direct vehicles for the show, which starts Thursday and runs through Sunday.

“Our biggest challenge is the traffic flow for the general admission lot,” Meyer said. “There are spectators that come from every state in the U.S.”

Meyer said traffic streaming in from the east on U.S. 136 is routed south onto County Road 1900 E and then back west to 2700N, all the way to U.S. 45 and then to Chandler Road.

“Probably 75 percent of (the traffic) will come from I-57,” Meyer said.

Traffic from the west, south and north is directed to Chandler, where it becomes a one-way route. One lane will be routed toward the Prairie Pines campground while another will be routed up Century Boulevard.

Meyer said many vehicles come carrying Gators and golf carts. The Half Century grounds will come alive with golf carts — so much so that drivers and pedestrians have to keep their head on a swivel.

Meyer recommends that people not attending the farm show use an alternate route around that area during the four days of the event.

But traffic is just part of the police department’s duties. There’s also security.

“Seven or eight” officers will be on traffic detail, and periodically “three or four” other officers will be on the grounds each day, Meyer said. Farm show officials will also employ their own security personnel.

There will also be police patrols at the site overnight.

“With this crowd it’s equally as much PR as it is security,” Meyer said of the patrols. “It’s a great event and great people. We try to interact with them as much as possible.”

Rantoul Fire personnel will also be on hand for the tractor pull events, and Pro Ambulance will have a dedicated vehicle on the grounds during the show.

For the Rantoul Rec Department, work on the site started months prior to the event. Weeds and other unwanted plants were sprayed in the concrete areas, according to Recreation Maintenance Supervisor J.D. Roessler.

“We have also been out multiple other times to touch up and spray more leading up to the show,” Roessler said.

The biggest job, though, is installing snow fence, which involves driving hundreds of stakes in the ground and using thousands of zip ties. The fence keeps people out of areas they should not be and directs them to areas they are allowed to go.

Rec Department staff also rope off an area around a church on the former Chanute Air Force Base to keep people out.

Prep work also involves a great deal of mowing and cleanup around signs and trees.
In addition, “We make signs to help with traffic control and put those up as well,” Roessler said. “We also trim up some trees in areas to help with areas where vehicles park.”

Greg Hazel, director of the Rantoul Public Works Department said much of the infrastructure for the farm show has been put in place in previous years, “so it’s evolved into offering a variety of support services.”

Those services range “from barricades and cones, (to) temporary electric service or troubleshooting at various locations; care and preparation of the airport grounds; just supporting the event and trouble shooting situations that arise.”



Categories (3):News, Agriculture, Living


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