“Shoes required” is about safety, not “topless paranoia”

I did speak with Mr. Kriss and I did make the statement that he quoted me on about several concerned mothers asking about our policy concerning women going shirtless. The North Carolina Mountain State is a family event and we want all fairgoers to dress appropriately. Mr. Kriss failed to mention my statement about the requirement of shoes being a safety measure. We want to ensure the safety of all of our patrons and feel that the need for shoes in a venue of this type and size is a valid concern.

When I told Mr. Kriss that barefoot patrons could step on a piece of glass, a rock or even a piece of equipment, which could possibly cause a foot injury, he told me he had videos of him walking on glass with his calloused feet. My conclusion is that Mr. Kriss is the exception to the rule. To my knowledge Mr. Kriss was not refused entry to the fair for whatever reason so I have concluded that he was simply offended by the presence of our sign.

— Matt Buchanan
WNC Agricultural Center
Fletcher

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22 thoughts on ““Shoes required” is about safety, not “topless paranoia”

  1. Kriss

    What’s happening here is that the fair management is now trying to backpedal and engage in damage control.

    Mr. Buchanan’s letter sounds like he had a direct conversation with me. We’ve never spoken “with” each other. What happened was, I sent him an email about the new signs. He called later and left a phone message when I wasn’t home. That’s where he stated that “the reason we put those signs there” (my emphasis) was because of concerns about “women going shirtless.” I called him back and left a message to call me. He didn’t call back. Later I sent him an email. He never responded to the email. A couple of days later, I called him again, and once again he didn’t answer, so I left another message. He has never responded to either my email or my phone calls.

    After talking about the “women going shirtless” issue as a reason for the signs, he did indeed mention “issues with tort claims” as a reason for including the “shoes required” part of the sign. But he refused to respond to my email in which I asked him how many actual “tort claims” the fair has had related directly to bare feet or someone going barefoot there. (I would expect NONE.) Also unanswered was my question of why wearing shoes was never a requirement or an issue before in all the 18 or so years the fair’s been in existence, and why it’s suddenly an issue this year when coincidentally shirts are now required for fear that women might be removing theirs.

    “We want to ensure the safety of all of our patrons and feel that the need for shoes in a venue of this type and size is a valid concern.”

    The NC Mountain State Fair is attended by around 180,000 people. The big NC State Fair in Raleigh is attended by over a million people. It has NO such dress code restrictions. (I have that confirmed in writing.) It’s just silly for our much smaller regional state fair to succumb in this way to such irrational demands of a few people, people no doubt strongly influenced by the crazy ideas and “child abuse” charges of certain right wing politicians who’ve been in the news recently.

    And BTW, I NEVER said anything to him about “calloused feet.” I’m not sure where he gets that.

  2. Tim

    I don’t see where it is the fair’s job to babysit its visitors. Would it really hurt you guys to allow people to be responsible for their own choices? I have to agree with Kriss on this point.

  3. CommonSense

    What is this irrational fear of topless and barefeet? Are these phobic nutjobs aware of the world around them? Many people go to the Oregon State Fair topless and barefoot. There has never been an issue. Look at nude beaches and resorts in America and Europe. There has never been a problem. In fact, if you were to have a conversation with anyone at a nude beach you’d find that they are extremely well balanced, come from a professional background and are injury free. So, how bad is it to be topless or barefoot?

  4. Deric

    I agree with Kriss. I think The sign(s) discriminates against not just a person’s right to dress the way they want as long as they are not offending anyone but also against religious groups, and people with medical issues that may not be able to wear shoes. They cannot do that and the signs should be removed. I usually attend the fair every year however, I was unable to this year. If I go next year and see such a sign that tells me I have to wear shoes (which I don’t for religious reasons) Being worried over being sued if someone gets hurt will not compare to a civil rights lawsuit for discrimination. Thank you Kriss for bringing this to the communities attention.

  5. brebro

    Who’s this “Mr. Kriss” that the letter writer keeps talking about? He seems to be addressing concerns similar to those raised by Mr. Sands, but keeps talking about Mr. Kriss. Maybe he also spoke to the drummer from KISS, (the one with the cat makeup).

  6. Dan

    How about posting a sign that says “Go barefoot at your own risk” and allow folks to attend the fair without requiring them to wear shoes? I love going barefoot as much as possible. I’ve been to many fairs and other events over the years and I’ve never been injured due to my lack of footwear. Besides, I assume responsibility for my own choices so if I should happen to cut my feet, that’s simply my own bad luck, not necessarily someone else’s negligence.

  7. AmericanFreedom

    It sounds like the sign went up in a bit of an over-reaction to a hypothetical issue with imaginary bare-chested women. My guess is that because the “No shoes, No shirt …” wording usually includes both, the people who decided on putting up the sign didn’t give it much thought. They just liked the alliteration. Now they appear to be looking for a reason to justify their ill-conceived ban on bare feet.

    Going barefoot may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but placing a sign telling people who want to go barefoot that they will not be admitted to a beautiful outdoor event like this one is extremely harsh and makes no logical sense whatsoever.

    Going barefoot is a very healthy and natural activity. In some parts of the world, “barefoot parks” exist where feeling the many different textures underfoot while walking without shoes is the primary objective. People walk on sticks and stones and rocks and mud and straw and so much more. These parks are especially popular in Germany and draw tens of thousands of visitors each year. But guess what? You don’t have to go to Germany to feel nature underfoot, you can go barefoot right here in the U.S. of A. At least until someone decides to put up a sign telling you that you can’t. How sad.

    It would seem that the spirit of the fair should be more about celebration and inclusion rather than blocking access for people who choose to celebrate their unique American freedom by walking barefoot. It is a sad day indeed when something so nourishing and natural is singled out as a prohibited activity at a fair, of all places. Meanwhile, thousands walk the fairgrounds in shoes manufactured in “questionable” Third World conditions as American jobs continue to get shipped overseas, and no one bats an eye.

  8. Kriss

    Good point, breBOO!. I noticed the name discrepancy as well. Since you mention it, maybe that’s the reason he never returned my calls or answered my email. He got me mixed up with someone else – the KISS drummer perhaps with the same last name as my first name – who may also have protested the new signs. But I just figured the name switch was just part of his overall attempt to spin things away from what really happened to what he’d like the public to think happened, since what really happened was so ridiculous.

    Here’s the thing. These people – the bureaucrats who run the fair – may never have actually intended this new rule to directly address the “problem” of topless demonstrators.

    There probably were demands by some people that they “do something” to address the perceived threat – stirred up by a couple of rabble-rousing conservative politicians. And the one thing that a bureaucrat fears most is being blamed when something goes wrong, especially when they’ve been warned in advance. So the signs were probably the simplest and easiest way for them to make it look like they were doing something. Then, in the unlikely event that there actually were topless demonstrators at the fair, at least they’d be able to point to their policy and signs and claim that they had taken the threat seriously and done everything they could to prevent that behavior. They probably threw in the shoe requirement as a smokescreen to make the policy appear similar in nature to so many other policies requiring shirts and shoes. A “No topless women” sign would probably draw more attention and possibly stir more controversy than a “Shirt and shoes required” sign, which (unfortunately) people are accustomed to seeing.

    What they failed to anticipate was someone like me challenging them. Now they are in damage control mode, trying to create seemingly sensible explanations for their misguided policy. When the manager let me in on their real motivation, I was supposed to just say, “Oh, sure. I understand.”

    On the contrary, I sent an email pointing out how ridiculous such reasoning was and questioning why “shoes” was thrown into the mix, since not wearing “shoes” has absolutely NO relationship with not wearing “shirts,” and certainly has no relationship whatsoever with topless women or the prevention thereof.

    His refusal to answer that email actually spoke volumes about their motivations, as I described above.

    • Kriss

      “One must accept whatever means that must be taken to prevent women taking off their shirts!”

      Sure. And forcing everyone to wear shoes will certainly accomplish that goal.

    • bill smith

      Tis but a small price to pay, Kriss, to keep women’s topless-ness from destroying the very fabric of reality.

  9. dankster

    Really….honestly… you want to walk around the state fair barefoot…..you must be one dirty person.what are you trying to live out a huckleberry finn fantasy..? get over it & be thankful you didn’t cut your foot open or step on some gooey gum or for that matter a puddle at the urinal ! I personally see nothing natural about walking around the state fair barefoot amongst machinery.go out in the woods & bare foot all you want.

    • Kriss

      How does walking around the fair barefoot make anyone any more a “dirty” person than someone walking around in shoes or flip-flops? All these forms of footwear step on the same ground.

      Well, actually, maybe not quite the same ground. Because anyone barefoot is much more aware of where they are about to step and are much more likely to avoid anything dangerous or objectionable. If you’re wearing shoes, quite often you’re not even aware you’ve stepped in something disgusting until after you’ve tracked it all over the place, including your car or home. And even then, some of the filth on your shoes may not be visible enough for you to notice, so it would just remain there forever. And worst of all, you continually touch those filthy shoes with your hands when you take them off or put them back on. And then what do your hands touch? Practically everything. That’s how diseases are spread. Not by going barefoot.

      “I personally see nothing natural about walking around the state fair barefoot amongst machinery.”

      You certainly have a right to your opinion. And you certainly have a right to choose to not go barefoot yourself. But what gives you the right to tell others – perfect strangers – how they should or shouldn’t dress? Someone being barefoot at the fair, or anywhere else, does no harm whatsoever to you or anyone else. Live and let live, and don’t try to force your likes, dislikes, or personal standards on other people.

  10. Pitter Patter

    “We want to ensure the safety of all of our patrons and feel that the need for shoes in a venue of this type and size is a valid concern.”

    So the Fair wanted to ensure everyone’s safety—carefully reviewed all concerns—and concluded that requiring shirts and shoes would do it?

    Why not also require hats, long-sleeves and long pants to avoid sunburn and skin cancer? What about prohibiting high-heels and platform shoes that pose genuine risks for ankle injuries?

    The oft seen shirt and shoes requirement—when linked together—did not originate out of safety concerns but to define local custom, likely in businesses near beach areas.

  11. Dionysis

    “…anyone barefoot is much more aware of where they are about to step and are much more likely to avoid anything dangerous or objectionable. If you’re wearing shoes, quite often you’re not even aware you’ve stepped in something disgusting until after you’ve tracked it all over the place, including your car or home…”

    And to that point, just this morning as I was coming into my work site, I stepped in dog doo and didn’t realize it until I got to my office and the fragrance engulfed me. Had I been bare-foot, that would not have happened, I can promise.

  12. Kura

    Life is dangerous, let everyone decide what is in there best interest for safety. It will make life easier. The idea that we need to pander to every potential safety risk and dictate safety features or warnings into everything is absurd.

    Life is dangerous, live at own risk!

    There is your warning label if you get hurt for your own choices accept it. Safety features are fine but don’t dictate someone has to use them.

  13. Orton

    “How does walking around the fair barefoot make anyone any more a “dirty” person than someone walking around in shoes or flip-flops? All these forms of footwear step on the same ground.”

    Wow, this is one of the most absurdly ridiculous statements I’ve read on this board.

    On a related note, I watched in amazement this year as numerous barefoot Brewgrass festival attendees walked, without hesitation, in and out porta-johns that were even more disgusting than usual. Nothing like getting a little closer to Mother Earth than tracking stragers’ piss and poop particles into your car and home.

    • bill smith

      “Nothing like getting a little closer to Mother Earth than tracking stragers’ piss and poop particles into your car and home. ”

      Is that different when wearing shoes?

  14. Kriss

    “Wow, this is one of the most absurdly ridiculous statements I’ve read on this board.”

    You’re disputing that someone wearing shoes or flip-flops would step on the same ground as someone barefoot when they’re all at the same location, such as a fair? If so, please explain how that wouldn’t be so.

    “…barefoot Brewgrass festival attendees walked, without hesitation, in and out porta-johns… tracking stragers’ piss and poop particles into your car and home.”

    And you’re saying if they were wearing shoes, such “particles” would not be tracked into their cars or homes? How so?

    I think you have it backward. What you describe is what happens if you’re wearing shoes. If you step in something you’d rather not step in, you’d never know it and would track it everywhere, including your car and home. If you’re barefoot, you can immediately feel it and usually can find a way to get it off your foot quickly before tracking it all over the place.

  15. Ashevegasjoe

    If the people who run the fair are concerned about peoples safety, why do they have the same rides i rode as a kid. Also, I seem to recall the fair at the mall being shut down for employing a pedophile. It would seem their exist dangers at the fair far more serious than stubbing a toe.

  16. Kriss

    You got that right, Ashevegasjoe. But the fact of the matter here is that they’re really NOT concerned about somebody stubbing a toe or anything else related to a potential barefoot injury. In their misguided efforts to appease the irrational fears of some parents who’d been mislead into believing that suddenly we’d be seeing topless women all over the place, the fair decided to put up a sign requiring everybody – male and female – to always wear a shirt (as if that would stop them if they really wanted to demonstrate there). But at least the fair could say it tried and therefore could not be blamed if it did happen.

    But in their misplaced zeal, the fair management obviously did not put much thought into what the signs would say, or the impact they might have on everyone else who had nothing whatsoever to do with topless women, and added “shoes” as well to the requirement. Why? Because “shoes” and “shirts” just go together. Makes sense, right?

    No, it doesn’t make sense, in fact, it’s a downright stupid assumption. All the fair was concerned with was keeping “shirts” on women. But I suppose to just say “Shirts required” didn’t quite roll as easily off the tongue as the popular alliterative “shirts and shoes.” So they threw “shoes” in, thinking nobody would really care, as people are kind of used to seeing that rule anyway.

    The “safety” justification came after the fact. It was never considered or needed before the topless issue came up, but since I complained about it, they decided to come up with that reason, rather than just admitting they really had no rational reason to include it. The fair got along fine for 18 years without requiring anyone to wear shoes. The NC State Fair in Raleigh, which is attended by over a million people – about 6 times larger than the Mountain State Fair – does not require either shirts or shoes. Besides, how many people actually attend the Mountain State Fair barefoot? Maybe, like, one? I’ve always attended it barefoot, but I’ve never, ever, seen another barefoot person there. And how many barefoot people have actually injured their feet there in the last 18 years? Maybe, like, none? I asked Mr. Buchanan that question, but of course, he refused to answer.

    And even if a barefoot person did get injured, what’s the likelihood they would sue the fair? Not likely at all. Most attorneys would be highly unlikely to take such a case, due to the very high degree of “contributory negligence” a barefoot person would be deemed to have assumed just because of his or her free-will decision to not wear shoes, knowing the “risks.” And there, in fact, have been almost NO cases where a barefoot injury in a store or other business has resulted in a damage judgment against the store or business.

    Liability arguments to justify a “shoes required” rule are actually pretty bogus.

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