Local cowboy fits the bill
The chief says he might spend as much as 15 hours each day at the fairgrounds.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Five years ago, Billy Arnaut was helping to lock up drug dealers as a member of the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force. Two years ago, he was working with police to solve homicides as an investigator for the Mahoning County coroner's office.
On Wednesday, Arnaut helped Jennifer Goodlyn and Evelynn Prozy carry a cooler to the 4-H barn at the Canfield Fair. He's worked as the Canfield Fairgrounds police chief since last September.
It may seem like a big change in responsibility, but Arnaut, 55, stresses that he has his hands full in his new job.
"There's everything here that a regular police department handles," he said, adding that the fairgrounds are like a city with a population of 500,000 during the fair. The fair police often are called upon to direct traffic, control crowds and respond to injuries from animal bites, Arnaut said.
He added that he might work 15 hours on a typical fair day.
Arnaut began work Wednesday, the first day of the fair, at 7 a.m. He drove to the fair police station from his horse farm on state Route 62 in Canfield.
Arnaut called himself a cowboy and noted that he likes to ride his horse to work when events aren't being held at the fairgrounds.
"Here's my uniform, blue jeans and cowboy boots," he said.
Most of Arnaut's morning was spent talking with officers about their plans and staffing for the day. About 245 fair police officers work in uniform eight hours each day during the fair, he said.
Some of those officers patrol the fairgrounds, while others work traffic control with Canfield police and Mahoning County deputy sheriffs. Most are local police officers who work at the fair while on their vacations.
Arnaut said that he is the only Canfield fairgrounds police officer who works full time all year. He added that other officers work only during special events, such as the fair, the dog show and the Hot Rod Super Nationals.
About half of the fairgrounds police officers carry guns, he said. Arnaut said those officers are certified to carry guns by the state. He noted that the guns help some fairgoers and concession stand workers feel more secure.
About 10 a.m., Arnaut got into a yellow all-terrain cart and drove to the parking lots on the eastern side of the fairgrounds. Although the sky was clear and the air was cool, the fairgrounds were far from crowded. Arnaut had no problem maneuvering the cart between the few concession workers and fair volunteers on the fairground roads.
As he passed the horse barns, Arnaut noted that fairgrounds police often have to help capture escaped animals. That was something he didn't have to worry about in his previous jobs.
Arnaut, a Youngstown native and Cardinal Mooney High School graduate, began his career in law enforcement in 1970 as an officer with the Mill Creek Park police. Two years later, he took a job as a Youngstown police officer.
From 1985 until his retirement in 1999, Arnaut was among the Youngstown officers on the drug task force.
Arnaut then worked as a coroner's investigator from 1999 until last year, when county common pleas court Judge James Evans asked him to replace Bill Fast as fairgrounds police chief. Fast had retired.
Judge Evans praised Arnaut for his personable attitude and said he's happy to have a police chief who lives in the area.
"He just fit my bill," Judge Evans said of Arnaut.
Arnaut spent last year's fair observing Fast, learning the responsibilities and meeting the others fairgrounds officers.
As he drove out to the parking lot Wednesday, Arnaut gave each officer he passed a wave and a friendly smile. He eventually stopped and spoke with one of his lieutenants, who said that two insurance company representatives were at the fair.
The representatives wanted to talk with the chief about their policies later in the day.
Arnaut made a mental note to meet with the insurance company representatives before driving to a fairgrounds entrance gate, where he spoke with an officer who has been working traffic detail for 48 years. He also took a call on his cell phone from Judge Evans, who asked for an update on the number of officers working at the fairgrounds.
There for the day
On his way back to the police station, Arnaut passed Goodlyn and Prozy lugging a full cooler to the 4-H barn. He stopped, put the cooler in the back of the cart and dropped it off at the barn.
By noon, Arnaut was back at the police station. He wouldn't have much time for lunch, however, as police received a call about a fire in a ride maintenance trailer at about 12:20 p.m. The fire was extinguished before police arrived at the trailer, and there were no injuries.
Arnaut spent the next hour talking with his officers about their day. About 3 p.m., he drove to the grandstand area for an interview with a television station.
Arnaut said he was planning to stay at the fairgrounds until about 10:30 p.m. to help oversee officers as they directed traffic after the Lee Greenwood and Sandi Patty concert.
"I rode my horse; I'm not going anywhere," he joked.