The antics ended as quickly as they started, but the damage incurred from having several teens yell for people to run at a crowded Pickerington Fourth of July celebration in Victory Park appears to be far reaching.
The incident caused an exodus from Victory Park as well as confusion and minor bruises and scrapes. It also spurred discussion at Pickerington City Council's Safety Committee meeting Aug. 2 as city officials and law-enforcement representatives met to consider the city's future plans for the Fourth of July celebrations.
"I was in the park and saw the panic in the crowd," Pickerington City Councilman Tony Barletta said. "That's the first time in my life I've seen that."
He said there was "a concentration of teens and very few adults and (Victory Park) only got more densely packed with young people."
Pickerington Police Cmdr. Tod Cheney said his department already was stretched thin. In addition, the department was responding to fight calls at Circle K and the Ridgeview Junior High School parking lot when the incident at Victory Park occurred.
"(Those other incidents) trimmed our guys in the park so it wasn't enough officers," Cheney said.
City councilwoman Melissa Wilde suggested moving the date of Pickerington's celebration to July 3, the same night as Red, White and Boom in Columbus, thus making Pickerington's event less crowded. Newark, Reynoldsburg and Whitehall also have their Independence Day festivities July 3.
City councilman Mike Sabatino agreed that moving the date could decrease potential problems.
"Changing the date wouldn't be a cure-all, but it would be a step in the right direction. We would have half the number of people out there," he said.
Cheney said some of the problems associated with Pickerington's event stem from youths residing outside the city.
"We detained (youths) from Reynoldsburg; we detained a car from Groveport. We had a group from Newark that showed up. We are drawing a lot of outside people," he said.
Cheney said another option would be to have the event in a larger area, using the Pickerington Local School District land adjacent to Victory Park.
"Something will have to change. (Maybe) we can spread the activity out, maybe access the (adjacent) practice fields to keep everybody from packing into the area," he said.
Wilde said the city should focus on the fireworks show and possibly do away with the music and food vendors.
"The main goal is to get the community to watch the fireworks," she said. "If people are too afraid to watch the fireworks because of all the other things, then it's no longer a benefit to the city."
Pickerington Parks and Recreation director Rebecca Medinger said the city doesn't "really get much return on the investment" from having food vendors at the event.
Safety committee chairwoman Cristie Hammond said ending the Fourth of July parade also should be considered.
"Maybe we don't want a parade," she said. "Everybody has a parade on the Fourth of July. It's difficult to get bands because they are already committed to other (venues)."
The safety committee members agreed to take the issue up at the Sept. 6 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.