The Pike County Fair descended into chaos Saturday as sheriff’s deputies worked to put out so many fights they ran out of pepper spray, requiring the event to shut down early and leaving organizers worried about the fair’s future.
“I am sorry we had to shut the fair down early before someone got killed,” Pike County Sheriff’s Deputy Bena Bean posted on Facebook after the melee. “It makes no sense, you can’t have anything in McComb.”
The fair opened Tuesday and was supposed to run until just before midnight Saturday. Deputies apparently shut the event down shortly before 10:30 Saturday night as they worked to break up numerous fights that cropped up around the same time.
“There were several fights down there,” Chief Investigator Chris Bell said.
Bean said deputies responded to a litany of fights that broke out in quick succession.
“It was a total of 10 fights back to back,” she said.
Deputies were overwhelmed by the brawls and apparently ran out of pepper spray in their attempt to quell the crowd.
“We all ran out of Mace breaking up fights,” Bean wrote.
Sheriff’s department officials confirmed Monday no arrests were made in the incident and everyone involved in the fights were juveniles.
Deputies at the scene called extra units for assistance in restoring order to the fairgrounds on Wardlaw Road.
Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Thompson, who was off duty, happened upon the scene and assisted first responders in separating those involved in the brawl.
“Thank God for my partner, Lt. Mark Thompson,” Bean added. “He stopped by the fair to talk to me and ended up breaking up fights off the clock.”
Deputies apparently flashed lights and sirens as they drove through the fairgrounds to disperse the crowd.
Videos circulated widely on social media over the weekend and appeared to show several fights breaking out, the background illuminated bright with the neon lights of the fair rides.
The videos show crowds of young people brawling, with at least one individual stomped while innocent bystanders looked on. Nearby, another young man appears to have been attacked by several other men before he is able to wiggle away.
Throughout several videos, groups of young people can be seen squaring up to each other in fighting stances, sometimes encircled by crowds of onlookers. Families and children seemed bewildered by the fights that broke out, standing and watching the chaos.
Fair organizer Diane Turnage said she is thankful nobody was seriously hurt.
The Pike County Fair put a number of extra security measures in place following a brawl in 2014 that brought eventually dismissed allegations of excessive force against deputies who responded.
Included in the extra security measures are enhanced stadium lighting that illuminates the entirety of the fairgrounds.
“It’s all lit up like a Christmas tree,” Turnage said.
Fair organizers also hire private security and enlist the help of sheriff’s deputies, Turnage said.
Those who organize the fair do so to provide something fun for people in the county to take part in free of charge, Turnage said, adding that organizers work on a volunteer basis and do not receive any compensation.
In addition to providing security and safety lighting, this year organizers implemented a wrist band rule for Saturday night. The idea behind the rule was to keep young people on rides rather than milling about the property, Turnage said.
Turnage is worried that incidents such as this may jeopardize the future of the fair.
The committee to organize next year’s fair will start its planning process over the coming months and will take into account liabilities exemplified by this year’s fight.
“One bad apple spoils the barrel,” Turnage said.