Hundreds of Madison County residents, along with people from across the state, are expected to be part of a weekend march and vendor’s fair in Berea to show support for law enforcement officers.
Tina McIntosh, a member of the Berea Backs the Blue Facebook group, has been working with fellow organizers Jason Kentworthy and Bill Moore to plan the event, which will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. - 8 pm. in Berea.
“We feel that it was something the community needed to do ... get people together and bring the morale up in the police departments. Show them that we support them and thank them for the work they do. All (law enforcement) is seeing right now is the negativity. We wanted to remind them that there is a lot of positivity out there and that their community is behind them,” McIntosh said of the message she hoped to convey with the event.
According to organizers, the event will kick-off with a vendor’s fair from at 11 a.m. and will continue until 5 p.m. in the old Mario’s parking lot on Chestnut Street in Berea.
Throughout the day, attendees can take part in a raffle for a chance to win several items, including autographed basketballs from University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari as well as other UK players.
Proceeds from the raffle and some of the vendors will be donated to the Berea Police Department to be used in later law enforcement charity events such as Shop with a Cop.
“With how the times are with COVID-19 and a lot of people are out of work, times are going to be even harder coming up. There are going to be a lot more kids that might need help during Christmas and Shop with a Cop will, hopefully, be well-funded to do that,” McIntosh said.
Organizers said donations have already started pouring in for the police department.
“We had a lot of people jump on board and want to help. Climax has donated cases of bottled water for our water stations that we will have set out for the march later in the day. Others have donated money to go straight to the police department’s charity,” McIntosh explained. “We had no idea it would turn out this big when it started.”
Rick Johnson, who co-owns the Chuck Wagon food truck with Mitch Sanders, said he was eager to lend a hand to the event.
The Chuck Wagon is the official food vendor for the “Berea Backs the Blue” event and will donating 10 percent of Saturday’s proceeds to the police department.
For Johnson, who was in law enforcement for 23 years, it was a no-brainer to be involved.
“My brother, Joe Johnson, is a police officer in Berea, as well. I spent four years working on patrol and was a narcotics detective for 20-something years ... It was a tough job when I started in 1992 and I can imagine it has only gotten tougher since. I have a lot of brothers and sisters who are still out there in the field and I wanted to do what I could for them,” Johnson said of his involvement.
Johnson said he has already started stocking up on food for the event, including smoking pork butts for the Chuck Wagon’s pulled pork sandwiches.
“We are going to take our best guess of what we need for Saturday and hopefully we will be right,” Johnson said with a laugh. “That’s all part of the food truck business.”
Following the vendor’s fair, a march will begin at 7 p.m., which will start at the old Ford lot across from Mario’s, continue down Chestnut Street and finish at Berea’s City Hall building.
“The city has agreed to have city hall lit up blue in honor of (law enforcement for the event),” McIntosh explained. “The recent resolution passed by the Berea City Council supporting the police will be read and we will have a prayer.”
According to McIntosh, masks will be required to participate in the march — pending health conditions — and extra masks can be purchased earlier in the day at the vendor’s fair.
Addressing several rumors surrounding the event, McIntosh also stated the event is non-violent and not meant to be a Second Amendment rally.
“No, absolutely not,” McIntosh said when asked. “There are people who I know that carry faithfully, but we have made it clear that if you don’t normally walk down the street with a gun in your hand, you don’t need to do it on Saturday. None of that will be tolerated. That is not what this rally is about.”
When asked about possible protestors at the event, McIntosh said she expects things to remain very peaceful.
“I think there is enough negativity out there right now, we don’t want to add to that in our community. We are approaching this in a positive way and just want to show support for the police in our community. I have heard that we might have protestors and that’s fine, they are not going to have any trouble from us,” McIntosh said.
Organizers said on Wednesday they expect hundreds of participants to the event.
“We are excited and I have talked with the police chief and I think the department is excited too. We are excited by the support we are getting. When Bill got the idea to start a group and he got Jason to make the Facebook group, I was surprised that it grew so fast,” McIntosh said of the public’s interest.
The Berea Backs the Blue Facebook group currently has more than 3,000 members.
“We had thousands of people join in just the first couple of days and that’s when I started working on the event and fundraisers. I think people are eager for some positivity and excited to show their support,” McIntosh said.