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Published on May 13, 2024
Berkley Days Festival Closes Early Amid Fights, New Security Measures Enacted for Michigan TraditionSource: Unsplash/ matthew Feeney

Berkley Days, Michigan's historic festival now in its 98th year, was cut short on Saturday night for the second consecutive year due to unruly behavior, as reported by FOX 2. The annual carnival that typically draws around 10,000 visitors was disrupted by fights, leading officials to shut it down around 7 p.m. on May 11, echoing the previous year's premature closure.

The decision by the Berkley Department of Public Safety came after the environment was deemed unsafe due to the disturbances, "Unfortunately, yet again the annual tradition of Berkley Days has been disrupted by fights breaking out amongst participating youth. Berkley Days has been shut down for the remainder of Saturday evening," the department shared on Facebook, obtained by FOX 2. New safety measures were hastily put in place for the festival's continuation on Sunday, with stricter rules including the requirement that all minors must be accompanied by an adult and everyone must purchase a wristband; furthermore, the festivities on Sunday would conclude two hours early, at 4 p.m. instead of the usual 6 p.m.

Despite the previous day's chaos, the Sunday event sought to restore order, with the addition of heightened security measures including the necessity of wristbands, a no-bag policy, limited entry points, and increased patrols, as mentioned by WXYZ. Berkley Days Association Chair, Denise Downen, emphasized the importance of the festival as a traditional, family-friendly space and a fundraiser for local charities. The enhanced security measures were met positively by attendees, "It makes you feel safer definitely, having a checkpoint,” Tiara Yakini, a parent visiting the carnival for the first time, told WXYZ.

Although additional details about the nature of the fights and whether any arrests had been made were not provided, city officials and law enforcement thanked their mutual aid partners for assisting in maintaining order; this sentiment was expressed by Berkley's Director of Public Safety, Matthew Koehn, “On behalf of Berkley Public Safety and our greater community, we send our sincere thanks and appreciation to our mutual aid partners who came out to support us in keeping everyone safe tonight,” Koehn said in a response to the incidents mentioned by WWJ Newsradio. The decision for next year's event hangs in the balance as the city mulls over the repercussions of back-to-back years of disorder.

Residents and participants now look forward to a new chapter for Berkley Days, hoping that the changes implemented will ensure the longevity of the cherished community event, as past conflicts seem to be mostly inter-school disputes, according to Lt. Andrew Hadfield with the Berkley Public Safety Department in a statement obtained by WXYZ,  "Most of the fights that happened in the past were just beefs with kids from their school or other schools.”