The Northwestern Michigan Fair kicked off earlier this weekend and with it has come some new signs and new rules.
For the first time, fair organizers have decided to ban the open carrying of firearms and fixed blade knives.
Since the fair grounds are privately owned by the Northwestern Michigan Fair, the Grand Traverse County Sheriff says that owners and organizers are completely within their rights to make the decision.
â??Areas that are open to the public but are private, such as a grocery store, that property is controlled by the owner and they may control the carrying of any weapons on their property,â?? said Sheriff Thomas Bensley. â??So if they prohibit firearms on their property they are well within their rights to do that.â??
Signs are posted at every entrance to the fair. They read, â??No open carrying of firearms of fixed blade knives. Violators will be trespassed.â??
Fair officials say people who do not obey the rules will be removed from the site.
â??Myself included, including our board, are very Second Amendment friendly,â?? said Scott Gray, the President of the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds. â??But the reason for asking the public not to bring their weapons on the grounds is itâ??s just not a place for a political rally. This is a family friendly event for the community and for the kids in the community.â??
Gray says they made the decision after hearing about recent rallies and demonstrations in the Traverse City area for second amendment supporters. Gray says the rallies were held during public events in public venues. He says they wanted to stay proactive so that the fairgrounds did not become the next venue.
â??I am a Second Amendment advocate,â?? said Gray. â??Carry your gun, carry it out in public if thatâ??s your choice, but we just donâ??t want demonstrations. We just donâ??t want that type of environment around here.â??
Gray says they wanted to avoid the possibility of confrontation that can sometimes come with these demonstrations.
â??Then you get the people that are against, and you get the shouting and the screaming and the yelling,â?? said Gray. â??It gets heated, it gets escalated. People canâ??t control themselves. This is a way that we can do that for them, is just to say no.â??
The new rules have also brought out different opinions from fairgoers.
â??It just makes the environment more safe,â?? said Julie Priest-Anthony. â??Never know when you have an unstable person walking around.â??
â??Nothingâ??s happened before and this has always been a safe environment,â?? said Samantha Anderson â??And I think theyâ??re probably just nitpicking.â??
â??I donâ??t think weapons should be on the premises unless officially carried by people who should be carrying them,â?? said Don Rohdy.
Gray says he wouldnâ??t mind looking into allowing rallies or demonstrations on the grounds if a group wanted to rent out the property.
He says fair organizers plan on making this a rule for any future Northwestern Michigan Fairs.