WESTPORT - Cold winds and rain didn't spoil a fun-filled day as a coalition of local government agencies and nonprofit organizations worked to promote safe, healthy living.
Around 300 people, both adults and youth, descended on the Essex County Fairgrounds May 8 for the Caring About Residents of Essex County (CARE) Fair, an event that included games, events, prizes, and giveaways - all centered around safety education.
"I'm very pleasantly surprised at the great turnout, especially with the weather," said District Attorney Kristy Sprague. "I think we had an important message to get out there, and the response today shows people are listening."
"Part of the reason we decided to do the CARE Fair was to highlight all the programs that are available for residents of Essex County," said Susan Kelley, director of the Essex County Task Force against Domestic Violence.
Representatives from many of those programs were available at the CARE Fair to answer questions, and a directory of the various services was made available to participants.
This year, the CARE Fair combined with another event that began last year: The Bringing Essex County's Strengths Together (BEST) Walk, a program aimed at supporting youth in their decision to avoid underage drinking and drunk driving.
"By bringing the two events together, we were able to combine our resources and make one really strong event," said Mike Mascarenas of the Essex County Youth Bureau.
Free "Above the Influence" t-shirts were given away to youth participating in the walk, and all could enter into drawings for other prizes, including an iPod Touch.
Mascarenas said the underage drinking message was particularly important with prom and graduation season approaching.
"We've got a lot of the older kids here today, and it's important for people to see how they're not part of the problem; they're part of the solution," he said. "It gives them a different perspective on kids when you see them doing good things."
Local law enforcement played a big role in the event, performing child seat safety checks, and facilitating a simulation where youth attempted to steer around obstacles wearing "drunk vision" goggles.
Patrolman Randy Bevins of the Ticonderoga Police Department was one of several people helping with a bike safety rodeo, which drew upward of 75 youth, giving away free bike helmets.
"What people don't realize is that bicycles are subject to the same rule of the road that vehicles are," Bevins said. "I think that's one of the biggest risks to public safety for kids."
Members of Placid Planet Bicycle Club volunteered their services for the bike rodeo, performing safety checks on bicycles and helping with helmet fittings.
"The club just wants to support safe bicycling in any way," said club member Steve Elberd.