When Fear Interrupts Fun: The Western Idaho Fair Shooting

Evening+at+the+Western+Idaho+Fair

Photo by: Expo Idaho

Evening at the Western Idaho Fair

By: Jisong Ryu, Staff Reporter

The Western Idaho Fair is one of the most popular amusement spots in Boise, with thousands of visitors annually flooding through the gates at the end of summer. Full of exhilarating rides, mouthwatering snacks, addictive games, and breathtaking night views, the fair offers a memorable experience to every person that steps on its grounds. However, this cherished park took an unexpected turn on Friday, August 26, where there was a stabbing on the fairgrounds, followed by a shooting in the parking lot. 

With families and friends crowding the entrance, purchasing tickets, and pushing their way inside, many expected Friday to be a typical day at the fair; many dressed in country attire for the Billy Currington concert at 7:30 PM, and students free from the classroom came in groups to enjoy the upcoming weekend.

Isabel Case, a sophomore at Timberline High School, was among them. “I went to the fair that day so I could hang out with my friends,” she said. Like many others, she was planning on simply having  fun, and didn’t expect the altercation that would occur later that evening. 

Photo by: Idaho Press
Rides light up at the Western Idaho Fair

The afternoon progressed smoothly until around 9:45 PM in the western parking lot near Midway Drive, where an 18-year-old, 16-year-old, and several others were running in the parking lot when the 16-year-old accidentally shot himself, according to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office. Moments earlier, the 18-year-old had been stabbed in the elbow during an argument near the carnival rides in the fairground. 

Deputies stationed nearby were able to respond to the 16-year-old shortly, and later were able to find the injured 18-year-old. After the shooting, the parking lot and fair gates were closed for around half an hour, creating several conflicts among visitors. 

Nicole Hill, a junior at Timberline High School, shared her experience as she, along with others, tried leaving the fair: “We were walking up to the parking lot, and everything is so backed up…there’s people getting in fights on who’s going to get out first, and some girl slapped somebody behind me,” she said. “The majority of us were just terrified…everyone, at least where I was, thought there was an active shooter, and we didn’t know if they had caught the guy.” 

Hundreds of cars, stuck in the expansive parking lot adjacent to the fair, was a place of chaos and confusion for almost an hour. Meanwhile, the park was still alive with visitors screaming on rides and exploring shops, all oblivious to what would be dominating the headlines the next day. 

“Unless you were out in the front or at the exit, or one of the exits where they were filling up…then you wouldn’t have really known,” Hill said.“No one said anything over the loudspeakers…we were all kind of just doing our own thing.”

Still inside the fair with her friends, Case, along with the many others who hadn’t yet exited the fair as it neared its closing time, was unaware of the incident, and had to rely on passing rumors to gain understanding of the situation. 

“I didn’t hear any gunshots or anything,” Case said. “A vendor selling rings told me about the shooting/stabbing but I just thought it was gossip going around and people were exaggerating.” 

Investigations continue in finding those associated with the incident and how the weapon involved  within the fair’s gates had entered. According to the Idaho Statesman, “Western Idaho Fair Director Bob Batista told the Statesman by phone that because of state laws, guns are allowed within the fairgrounds”, and that “the fair does not allow certain types of weapons including knives, hatchets or other types of sharp objects.” Batista added despite the events on Friday night, he appreciated the Ada County Sheriff’s Office for their efforts. “They made this place safe for everybody to stay here until they had this investigation and the crime scene ready to go,” Batista said.

They made this place safe for everybody to stay here until they had this investigation and the crime scene ready to go”

— Western Idaho Fair Director Bob Batista

Guests were able to successfully leave the parking lot at around 11:30 PM as deputies started reopening the parking lot and fair gates. With flashing police cars exiting the parking lot and countless vehicles getting back on the road, many were impacted differently by the unexpected series of events during their day at the fair, and some had slightly changed views about going to the park again. 

“I’ll probably go next year but I’ll definitely be a little more nervous,” Hill said. “It kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth.”

The Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the details of the situation that led to the stabbing and shooting. Batista shared concluding statements on the matter:

“We take this very seriously,” said Batista. “I understand there’s some hesitancy, we have not had anything like this happen in the past. This is a safe place to come, we take a lot of pride in making sure your safety is the number one priority.”

After collaborative efforts between the Sheriff’s Office and the Western Idaho Fair director help bring closure to the incident, the fair is working towards becoming a safe place, and will be back open next year in 2023.