Indiana State Police step outside the squad car at the Indiana State Fair

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By Lauren Hughes and Kayla Crandall


Surrounded by a sea of people, you frantically spin in circles looking for your child who was just by your side. You turn your back for the slightest second … and then he is gone.

This is a reality for many parents who attend big events at large venues like the Indiana State Fair.

It attracts more than 900,000 people every year. With a crowd that size, the likelihood of someone losing his wallet, his child, or even his consciousness is pretty high.

That’s why the Indiana State Police have set up two booths on opposite ends of the fair loop. Standing by ready for anything, officers answer questions ranging from where’s the nearest restroom to why’d I get that speeding ticket.

“We are approachable, and we all enjoy being out here and interacting with the public,” Indiana State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Ray Poole said.

Officers get to know kids by saying hello and handing out pencils and police badge stickers. It’s a little hard for shy kids to feel comfortable around new people, but officers make an effort by coming to their level.

Indiana State Police Officer Randy McPike described an interaction with a scared toddler.

“I took my sunglasses off, I stood in front of her and knelt down, and handed her a sticker," McPike said. "‘You know, I’m a daddy and I have a little girl at home just like you.’ And she gave me a hug and made my day.”

Other than handing out stickers and being friendly, the Indiana State Police offer lost-child identification cards that can be attached to shoes or placed in pockets. Officers at the State Police information booth say in a typical day they are alerted to at least one lost child, so they suggest parents fill these out in case a child doesn’t know his phone number or won’t talk to them.

As a mother of three, Allison Webb of Indianapolis has a game plan and a big discussion about expectations before she arrives to the fairgrounds with her 4-year-old daughter, Maya.

“Maya is a runner,” Webb said. She thought the ID cards were a great idea.

Lauren Hughes and Kayla Crandall are writers for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a Ball State University immersive-learning project placing 25 student journalists at the heart of the Midway to tell the weird and wonderful stories of the 2014 Indiana State Fair