Lost kids at the fair: 'it can be a dozen, sometimes more'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Fair security said that they want to remind guardians of small children about a simple solution that can make all the difference if a kid gets separated from their guardian.

Everywhere you turn at the Lane County Fair young kids can be seen enjoying themselves, but fair information officer Rachel Bivens said they set up information booths and a lost kids tent for an important reason.

"Kids get separated," said Bivens at the fair early Friday evening. "That's just what happens. Part of the family will go one way, and the kid will go anothersee something shiny they want and off they go."

On Friday night two10-year-old girls went missing at the fair. They were found a half hour later by a team of fair security, Eugene police and Lane County Sheriff's deputies. Staff and police officials close all enterance/exit points to the fairgrounds during every missing child situation until the child is located.

Bivens, who has two small children of her own, said kids getting lost during fair season is not uncommon.

"On a busy night like tonight, it can be a dozen, sometimes more," she said.

Bivens said security officers, the "big guys in the black shirts," generally find kids and get them back to their guardians in less than three minutes.

"As soon as that kid is reported lost, the announcement is made and we're after it right away," she said.

Bivens added that the key to fair security's success can be found in the lost kids tent.

As a small child walked up to the lost kids tent, Bivens asked,"Hi sweetie, how are you? Where's your mom?"

The little girl's mother was actually standing less than 10 feet away, but Bivens siezed the opportunity as a teachable moment.

"So, these little bands," said Bivens to the little girl's mother, "they just put your cell phone number on there and put one on each of your kids in case they get lost. And we'll know how to get you."

Bivens said it's a simple solution designed to relieve one of parent's worst nightmares.

"Having my kid kidnapped or lost," said Joyce Legorreta, a mother of four at the fair on Friday, "the fear of them not being able to recognize me, or them not speaking up and letting someone know when they need help to find me."

Bivens said if a child does go missing at the fair, go directly to the lost kids tent on the south side of the fair grounds to report it. She added that the parent should be ready with an accurate description of the child so a search can begin right away.