Baldwin City — While the thousands of annual visitors to the Maple Leaf Festival next weekend are welcome for the 50th version this year as always, their dogs aren't.
Neither are any other animals.
Baldwin City Council recently approved an ordinance that prohibits animals at any public event. The reason for the ordinance - and the main aim of the action - was an incident at last year's festival when a young girl was bitten in the face by a dog.
"I know this has been an uncomfortable issue, and the safety committee debated about it a long time," said Nancy Brown, a member of both the safety and Maple Leaf Festival committees. "But with the incident last year and fights between dogs, we decided to suggest that dogs shouldn't be coming to Maple Leaf.
"There's no dog that does well around 30,000 people," Brown said.
The idea started out as just banning dogs from Maple Leaf. But, for various reasons, the ban grew to all animals at all public events.
The ordinance has some bite to it - violators can be fined $500. It's expected for the first year of the new rules that the fines won't come into play much.
"If we see an animal, we will request it to be removed," Brown said. "If we see it a second time, we will have enforcement. We don't want to be nasty about it, but it is now a law in our town."
What will that enforcement be?
"Committee members and barricade monitors will be the first line," she said. "If they don't respond, we will request police assistance."
Since the ordinance was passed, the Maple Leaf committee has tried to get the word out the best it can on its promotional information. There will also be notification around Baldwin City.
"We are going to have signs posted about the ordinance," Brown said. "Buses will have these signs. Satellite parking areas will have these signs."
Although there has been talk around town about people offering boarding services for the festival, Brown said she wouldn't count on it.
"I've not heard of anything along those lines," she said, adding that liability costs and other factors would make that difficult.
The ban is only for the festival grounds and not throughout the city.
"If someone on Orange Street wanted to do that (board animals) and were willing to get liability insurance for that, I'm sure there would be people who would appreciate it," she said.
The ordinance allows for animals to participate in the annual parade at 11 a.m. Saturday. But after the parade, they are not welcome on festival grounds.
The ban does not affect the Kids Zone's petting zoo. Service animals, of course, will be allowed.