|Monday, Mar 26, 2012|
The city of Hot Springs held its annual St. Patrick's Day event adjacent to the park on Saturday, March 17th, with a parade, music, vendors and entertainment. The event was highly publicized, with the band .38 Special as the headliner. Crowds were estimated by city officials at a total of about 50,000 people. Six rangers were assigned to manage all incidents that occurred inside of the park; one protection employee was assigned to represent the park at the command post that had been established under unified command with representatives from local, state, and county law enforcement agencies. Crowds were out in full force as the temperatures were in the 80s and the skies were clear. During the late afternoon parade, debris from one of the floats caused a power transformer to explode, sending sparks down onto the crowd, blowing the power grid, and knocking the 911 emergency call center offline, forcing all incoming emergency calls to be forwarded to another emergency operations center. Rangers responded to numerous incidents, including six drug violations, two warrant arrests, two public intoxication arrests, and five alcohol violations. They were also dispatched to establish a perimeter around the Grand Promenade after a suspect in a felony assault was thought to have fled into the park and asked to respond to assaults adjacent to the park. In one incident, they were asked to investigate complaints received about five men who were being disorderly in the park. The men resisted rangers and fled on foot into the downtown area. Ranger Andy Griggs was able to stay close enough to them to call in their location over the radio, though; as they attempted to run towards the extremely crowded center stage area in an apparent attempt to lose the pursuing rangers in the crowd, they therefore encountered a large contingent of local and county law enforcement officers who were anxiously awaiting their arrival. The five men were detained for the rangers, who arrived shortly thereafter and took all of them into custody. The crowd erupted in applause as the rangers drove the suspects off to jail.