After several violent incidents Monday night, the Virgil Stampede is going to look into increased safety and security for next year.
After the fair closed on Monday, some Niagara-on-the-Lake residents voiced their concerns on community Facebook pages, citing several fights, use of pepper spray, a knife being dropped and one allegation of a gun being seen.
Richard Wall, president of the Virgil Business Association, which organizes the Stampede, said the fair had St. John Ambulance personnel and eight guards from Paladin Security on duty.
“Everything went really smoothly up until really the last hour,” he said.
“For lack of a better term, there were some teenagers with some ideas of causing trouble that caused trouble,” he added.
Security measures will be reviewed and possibly upgraded for next year, he said.
Stephanie Baxter, whose 13-year-old daughter phoned her upset after witnessing more than one incident, said the fights happened between 8 to 9:30 p.m.
Videos obtained by The Lake Report show fights breaking out and in one case a knife appears to be dropped by one of the people fighting. The knife is then picked up by a bystander.
“It was the most terrifying thing to get a phone call from your daughter screaming and crying, ‘They have guns and knives mom. I’m so scared,’ ” said Baxter.
She said she was parked at the nearby Meridian bank waiting for the fireworks when she got the call from her daughter at about 9:15 p.m.
“I ran from Meridian to behind the post office where my daughter was with a small group of friends talking with the police officer,” she said.
“There wasn’t really much I could do,” Baxter said. “My daughter gave her statement to the police and the police officers just said, ‘We have your information. You guys get home safe,’ and we walked away.”
After her daughter’s friend was assaulted, Baxter said her daughter went to security and told guards that there were fights and people might have guns and knives.
“And security told them it’s not their problem. ‘Call the cops.’ And proceeded to walk away from the teenage girls. Which is when my daughter called me.”
Another video obtained by The Lake Report and shared on TikTok shows a fight happening and security standing watching.
Baxter said she thinks the security was abysmal.
“I get that security doesn’t want to jump in when there’s multiple people in a fight for the safety of them not being jumped, but this was absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
When The Lake Report’s staff arrived this year, nobody checked their camera bags. In past years, bags were checked.
Niagara Regional Police Const. Philip Gavin said officers were called to the Stampede at 8:46 p.m. Monday after receiving a call that someone had a gun and possibly a knife.
There was a fight involving teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18, and one person was arrested initially, he said in an email.
“As the investigation continued and possible witnesses were located in the crowd, it was determined that no handgun was actually seen or displayed,” he said.
“Locating forthcoming witnesses to corroborate statements was also difficult at the busy scene,” he added.
Gavin said the person who had been detained was released because there was no evidence he had committed a crime.
Shortly after 10 p.m., police responded to another large fight that involved teenagers being sprayed with bear mace, said Gavin.
A video shared with The Lake Report showed a teen receiving first aid after being sprayed.
An anonymous commenter shared concerns about the fighting on the NOTL 4 All Facebook page.
People there also commented on a lack of help from security guards when the fights began.
Looking ahead, Wall said he will be debriefing with his organizing team and Niagara Regional Police about what changes could be made for next year.
That may include adding more security, he said, or having a mix of security and police on duty, but as of now it’s too early to say.
“It’s always a handful of bad apples that make a mess for the larger population,” he said.