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August 16, 2011

Thoughts on the Tragedy: Sugarland Stage Collapse: Indiana State Fair

by @thoughtontracks

A few days have passed, and I have had time to digest the tragedy that took place at the Indiana State Fairgrounds over the weekend. For those residing beneath boulders, five people were killed and dozens injured when a stage collapsed just before the country duo Sugarland was scheduled to perform. Sudden gusts of 70-plus mph winds are the likely culprit, but an investigation as to whether the tragedy could have been avoided is under way.

Regardless of where the blame inevitably falls, what took place in Indianapolis on Saturday has already left an indelible mark upon a town that tends to forget just how small it is. I was across town when the stage toppled. The news came via radio on my drive toward MOKB Presents Lucy Woodward at White Rabbit Cabaret. There was still much confusion, and reports as to the seriousness of the incident remained muddled.

Thought on Tracks contributor Brett McGrath was at a party with college friends when his brother Kyle telephoned frantically. Kyle had purchased tickets for the pit at the Sugarland show, but had been forced to back out due to a wedding. Brett had passed the tickets along to a co-worker who purchased them for his parents. The brothers spent the bulk of their Saturday evening sending panicked e-mails and telephone calls before learning that the friend’s parents were safe and sound.

Such is life in Indy, where events are rarely isolated. In the days since the collapse, stories of those connected to the event have surfaced at every turn. Hoosiers are left picking up the pieces as nightmarish photographs and videos scroll across national news stations. The Fair has cancelled performances by Janet Jackson and Lady Antebellum scheduled for later in the week. Plans for an alternate venue for Train and Maroon 5 will be announced today.

Only once have I been able to stomach the video footage of the falling stage at the Fairgrounds. To put it simply, it hits too close to home. In the summer, a weekend rarely passes without my attendance at some sort of live music. The incident serves as a terrifying reminder of all that I take for granted as a spectator. We walk blindly into these events assuming that every stagehand and volunteer has performed to the best of their ability.

I sincerely hope, for all involved, that Saturday was no different. That the event staff took every conceivable precaution and the worst still happened. In all likelihood, we will never know with certainty. Life is unfair that way, leaving only questions when we so desperately seek answers. All we can do is learn from the experience and remember those that fell at the next show, wherever that may be.

Written by Rob Peoni

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