Safety concerns after Highland Park, Ill., parade slayings: Country Boom prepares for security

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) — The slaughter of seven parade-watchers in Highland Park, Ill., Monday and others mass slayings across the country are raising concerns about the safety of local events. Organizers of Country Boom say they’re preparing for one of Coulee Region’s biggest music weekends.

Country Boom organizers expect to see around 22,000 people for the West Salem festival from Thursday through Saturday. Organizers say they will be working with state patrol, sheriff’s departments and police officers to make sure people can enjoy music safely.

Music can bring communities together.

“Something we take pride in is not just putting on an event, but a first class event this entire area can be proud of,” said Country Boom co-founder Jon Holthaus.

As communities get ready to enjoy concerts, security firms are getting ready for worst-case scenarios, such as the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, where a shooter killed seven people and injured dozens more.

“We are always on high alert when we do any venues,” said Willie Bowie, the owner of Bowie Security, a private firm hired for Country Boom.

Bowie said security workers will search everyone who comes through the gates.

“The ladies will have their bags checked for any weapons as knives, pepper sprays, anything like that. None of that will be let in the grounds,” Bowie said.

People will be patted down before they are allowed in the grounds, Holthaus said.

“Security protocol is basically when people walk in, they’re going to be wanded down almost like TSA, emptying their pockets of all things metal,” he said.

Country Boom has put up 6-foot fencing around the entire grounds and will allow people to enter and leave through only three checkpoints. La Crosse County Sheriff’s department, West Salem police department, and the Wisconsin State Patrol will be there to provide additional security.

“Anywhere between 15 to 20 sheriff’s department are usually on staff during peak times, as well as our security team as well,” Holthaus said.

Even if lines are long, the festival will not ease up on security, he said.

“Come earlier than you would want to be on the ground so you can work through the security checks,” Holthaus said.

People should be able to enjoy music without any fear, Bowie said.

“Leave the nonsense at home — all the weapons and everything,” he said. “Come to have a good time.”

If you see something or have any safety questions, Country Boom is encouraging people to find a security officer.

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