By Mrs. Erinn Burgess (IMCOM)September 6, 2018
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Each year when September rolls around, those living in the Rheinland-Pfalz know it is time again for the annual Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt, or Bad Dürkheim wine festival. As the largest wine festival in the world and one of the most traditional and entertaining festivals in Germany, the celebration includes an assortment of fun for the festgoers, Germans and Americans alike. U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Directorate of Emergency Services partners with local police and Air Force counterparts to ensure that festgoers have a good time while staying safe.
USAG RP DES Director Lt. Col. Victor Baez-An explained that a strong police presence, whether U.S. or German, deters crime. That's why military police, security forces and regional polizei join forces for the event each year.
"We're there to assist as needed -- if there's an issue or something as simple as helping someone locate a first-aid station," Baez-An said. "This is a joint partnership and we are all out there with the same goal: make sure everybody is safe and has a good time."
It's not uncommon to see a large amount of police forces present at the festival. Law enforcement officers will disperse themselves throughout the festival grounds to ensure that they are never far from reach should their assistance be needed.
"Really, the reason why we're there is so everyone feels comfortable -- there are familiar faces, familiar uniforms -- if somebody needs something, they know who to go to," added DES Master Sgt. Cameron Regur.
DES Operations Officer 2nd Lt. Steven Iversen said the festival gets hectic and it's a lot of extra hours and additional duty for the law enforcement personnel working. "I commend the hard work that the military police, security forces and polizei put into this event," said Iversen, who has worked the past two years of the festival himself. "The hard work doesn't go unnoticed and it is appreciated."
DES offered the following tips for festgoers to follow:
1. Have a transportation plan, whether you're going with a designated driver, the train or a bus. Note that parking will be limited and may include a walk through dimly lit areas to get to and from the fest. Keep an eye on the train schedule and know that there will be many people trying to travel the same route at the same time.
2. Travel with a buddy and make sure you don't get separated. Establish meeting points with family members or friends in case of separation or emergency.
3. Be mindful of crimes of opportunity -- a loose cell phone or wallet could be stolen or pickpocketed in the crowd.
4. Keep emergency numbers in mind: 110 puts you in touch with police and 112 is used for fire or medical emergency. Also, know where first-aid stations are located.
5. Follow official sources for updates. Register with the AtHoc Mass Notification Warning System (registration link may be found on the homepage of www.rp.army.mil) so that you will be notified in the event of an emergency. Polizei Rheinpfalz will also post updates to their Twitter account (@PP_Rheinpfalz).
"Stay vigilant, have a good time and enjoy yourself, but don't completely lose track of your surroundings," Baez-An said. He also encouraged festgoers to listen to law enforcement and be respectful of their instructions or requests.
Though the festival has the potential to get rowdy, Regur said DES does not see a big increase in alcohol-related offenses or assaults during the two weeks that Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt takes place. He explained that incidents are generally handled on-site without reports being generated, unless people become uncooperative with law enforcement and further action is needed.
"We're not out there to get people in trouble," Regur said. "We just want to make sure everybody has a safe and good time. If somebody needs assistance, please ask an MP, ask a polizei officer, we are out there to help."