Jessica Silas, AP
Executive Director Cindy Hoye told the Indiana State Fair Commission that the fair, which runs from Aug. 3-19, "will stop" on Aug. 13 at 8:46 p.m. - the moment stage rigging toppled in high winds ahead of a storm, killing seven people and injuring dozens of others awaiting a concert by country duo Sugarland.
Hoye said fair staff, vendors and contractors will be asked to mark a moment of silence for the victims, and fairgoers will be advised over loudspeakers throughout the day of the memorial.
"Hopefully, all of our fairgoers will stop and pay respect to those who lost their lives, those who have been forever injured or affected," she said, adding that the fair will resume normal operations "after an appropriate pause and reflection."
Thursday's commission meeting came a month after the panel unanimously approved a 425-page emergency management plan designed to prevent a repeat of the stage collapse. Hoye said fair officials had "moved mountains" to implement that plan for keeping fairgoers safe in the wake of a scathing independent report about the disaster.
Consultant Witt Associates, which investigated the collapse for the commission, found that "an ambiguity of authority" among fair officials resulted in confusion and uncertainty over who was in charge of public safety.
The fair's new safety preparedness plan gives the fair's new chief operations officer, David Shaw, responsibility for postponing or canceling events amid threatening conditions or, in his absence, Safety and Security Director Jessie Olvera.
Shaw said Thursday that the fair's 60 employees and 1,200 fair workers must pass a safety training program test before they can get a badge that allows them to work onsite. He also said every building at the fairgrounds will have between one and three staff members on hand accountable for the safety and security of that particular building.
Commission Chairman Andre Lacy called the fair's new emergency plan the "best comprehensive emergency management plan that exists on the planet today."
Sen. Jim Merritt, a member of state fair advisory committee, said after Thursday's meeting that he's certain fair officials have fully adopted the recommended safety changes.
"We have installed I believe what is a mind-set of safety and security and anybody walking into this fair on Aug. 3 there will be no question that they will be safe and secure," Merritt said.
Hoye said fair officials are hoping this year's fair will be a big success, as the stage collapse marred the fair's closing days. Next month's fair is expected to attract about 900,000 visitors.
On Thursday, commission members also awarded the first four contracts for a planned renovation of the fairgrounds' coliseum that will keep the building on the sidelines during next year's fair. Those contracts, totaling more than $3 million, include interior demolition, foundation work, new steel and other structural work on the 1939 building, which is slated for a $71 million upgrade set to begin this fall.
The project, set for completion in time for the 2014 fair, will outfit the building to host concerts once held at the grandstand, which was the scene of the stage collapse.
The coliseum was the scene of a 1963 propane gas explosion that killed 74 people attending an ice skating show. The following year, the venue played host to The Beatles' only Indiana concert.
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