Fair safety top of mind after carnival worker arrested

Fair safety top of mind after Tri-Cities carnival worker arrested

Posted: Updated:
Harold House (source: Washington County Sheriff's Office) Harold House (source: Washington County Sheriff's Office)
The Tennessee Valley Fair kicks off Friday afternoon at Chilhowee Park in East Knoxville. The Tennessee Valley Fair kicks off Friday afternoon at Chilhowee Park in East Knoxville.
"We all have our families out here and it's super important for us to keep safety in mind and we do that in all aspects of the fair," said Sarah Thompson, director of public relations and advertising for the Tennessee Valley Fair. "We all have our families out here and it's super important for us to keep safety in mind and we do that in all aspects of the fair," said Sarah Thompson, director of public relations and advertising for the Tennessee Valley Fair.
"I hope they wouldn't worry about something that happened somewhere else with another company with other individuals because this is a whole different situation," Wade Shows General Manager Jon Ketcham said. "I hope they wouldn't worry about something that happened somewhere else with another company with other individuals because this is a whole different situation," Wade Shows General Manager Jon Ketcham said.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - An East Tennessee carnival worker was arrested Monday for raping a 17-year-old girl.

Washington County investigators say Harold House, 29, admitted to having sex with the teen several times at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray. He is charged with eight counts of aggravated statutory rape and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

WJHL-TV reports House met the teen while operating a carnival ride at the fair late last month. He allegedly gave her marijuana and they made plans to run away together.

The Tennessee Valley Fair kicks off Friday afternoon at Chilhowee Park in East Knoxville.

The fair uses a different carnival company than the one in the Tri-Cities. Organizers say they work hard to keep the fairgrounds safe.

"We all have our families out here and it's super important for us to keep safety in mind and we do that in all aspects of the fair," said Sarah Thompson, director of public relations and advertising for the Tennessee Valley Fair. "We have a great safety record. Knoxville police are on hand. When you come out to the fair, you can see them all over the place."

Thompson said they also trust their midway provider, Wade Shows, from Michigan.

"They're a family operation. We're a family operation. We care about East Tennessee and we really try hard to make sure everything is safe and family friendly out here," she said.

Wade Shows General Manager Jon Ketcham says the 100 employees who travel with them and the 15 or 20 they hire locally each year undergo a background check and drug test before they're hired. Random drug testing is conducted during the fair.

"My family lives here with me. I have grandchildren that come here and stay weeks at a time until school goes back, and we assure a safe environment for all our families, especially for our patrons," Ketcham said.

He said local families should feel confident coming out to the Tennessee Valley Fair. 

"I hope they wouldn't worry about something that happened somewhere else with another company with other individuals because this is a whole different situation," Ketcham said.

Knoxville police say they have never had any reports from the fair like the rape allegations in Washington County.

The carnival worker arrested at the Appalachian Fair worked for Drew Expositions. The same carnival company was at the East Tennessee State Fair in Morristown last month.

Fair officials there refused to comment on the allegations.

The Cocke County fair manager told 6 News Thursday they were about to sign a contract with Drew Expositions for next year before hearing about the arrest and are now reconsidering.

Libby Strange, fair manager, said Friday she has now talked to Jim Drew of Drew Exposition and gotten all the facts and they will be using them for their fair next year.


Drew Exposition responds

Jim Drew of Drew Exposition provided 6 News a prepared statement saying his company does criminal checks and drug testing.

"We are aware that some companies that provide rides do not nor have interest in performing criminal checks and drug testing. This fact applies to many other types of businesses as well.

"We however do diligent drug testing and check histories in order that we know who is around children on the fairgrounds. Just yesterday we turned away 7 out of 40 applicants due to criminal histories. The person charged was a local and temporary employee who passed a drug test done by urinalysis. He also showed no history of violent crimes or sex crimes. Since this incident we have reached out to local law enforcement even more to ensure safety of our patrons. We will not tolerate drugs or people with criminal histories that could put our patrons at risk."

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WATE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.