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Special event organizers change alcohol sale policies

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| June 16, 2009 12:00 AM

Organizers of summer events in Libby and Troy are upbeat about implementing measures to reduce drunk driving, over-drinking and underage drinking this year.

“We feel it’s not necessarily bad to drink,” said Debi Davidson, a Libby Logger Days organizer. “If you prove you can do it responsibly, that also teaches the youth of today to be responsible.”

Maggie Anderson of the Montana Community Change Project has helped guide these changes for some events, such as Eureka’s Rendezvous celebration last April and Libby Logger Days later this month.

“I thought (the changes) would be the hardest sell,” Anderson said at a recent Libby City Council meeting. She said she was “thrilled” that organizers and city councils in the county were receptive to placing restrictions at events to deter irresponsible alcohol consumption and underage drinking.

Some organizers, such as that of Troy’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration, came up with alcohol restrictions on their own.

“Every year we discuss what worked and what didn’t,” said Melody Condron, a Troy Fourth of July organizer. “It’s a constant conversation. As an event that serves alcohol, we change and adapt to the way people are acting.”

Drink specials that Condron said encourages more alcohol consumption will be axed. The amount of alcohol that can be purchased at once will be limited to discourage attendees from handing out drinks to minors. Drink sizes will be smaller, and lighting will be improved to better check identification and hand stamps.

Organizers opted for hand stamps instead of bracelets this year because people have in the past slid them off and had given them to underage friends.

“We have also upped the security this year,” Condron said. “More police on hand encourages younger people not to drink because they see more people around.”

Lincoln County sheriff officers will provide extra patrols for a crowd that grew to 6,000 people last year.

Anderson believes that the most effective alcohol deterrents for underage people are a physical boundary between drinkers and non-drinkers, and responsible sales and server training. Libby Logger Days traditionally has a separate beer garden, and has taken the extra step this year to have all of its volunteers take server classes.

Anderson first contacted organizers about a month ago.

“She presented the statistics of alcohol use in Lincoln County, and we all agreed we’d like to be a part of making change,” Davidson said.

The training covers topics like how to recognize someone who is on the verge of being over-served, and how to graciously offer a glass of water instead of a beer.

In addition, organizers this year will be using a scanner to verify identification.

Davidson said that the precautions not only provide for a safer event, but it lowers the cost of event insurance.

“The less money we have to spend on insurance,” she said, “the more we can put into school fundraisers that we do.”

Organizers from both events emphasized that they want to continue providing a family-friendly atmosphere.