Annual Porter County Fair comes into town
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 20, 2014 10:28PM
For more on the 164th annual Porter County Fair, go to www.portercountyfair.com, or call 462-0321.
Updated: August 22, 2014 6:32AM
VALPARAISO — Lori Neumeier sank into the loose corn, deeper and deeper, until she was almost up to her armpits.
“I could pull my feet out of my shoes,” the Porter County Fair’s free grounds entertainment manager said Sunday during a grain bin safety program at the fair. “I could never get out.”
Strapped safely with a harness and line to a bar overhead, in a Tyvek suit to keep off the corn dust, Neumeier was rescued from the miniature grain bin by Michael Williams and Josh Kandel, safety and risk management coordinators with Co-Alliance.
The bin held 150 bushels of corn. Pointing to one across the road from the fairground, Kandel said it probably held 15,000 to 20,000 bushels of corn, “and that’s a small one. The big one at Malden holds 750,000.”
The grain co-op holds safety training and refresher programs every year, including fall training for farmers, Williams said.
“We were looking for a way to train people on what it’s really like to be engulfed in a grain bin,” he said, adding he saw a similar set-up in Michigan and got approval to use it for training through Co-Alliance.
The equipment was set up at the Carroll County in Flora, and was used for a full demonstration Saturday at the White County Fair in Reynolds. Williams is hoping to take it to the state fair next month.
The goal of the program is to get the word out about safety, and county fairs provide a good setting for that message.
“It happens a lot more often on the farm, and that’s what we’re trying to raise awareness about,” Williams said, adding safety procedures for the co-op include always having two people present when someone goes into a bin, and making sure the auger is shut off so there’s no moving grain.
Most adults become helpless at knee level in grain, according to information provided by Williams and Kandel, and a 10-inch auger moves enough grain to bury a 6-foot person up to the waist in 15 seconds.
“It’s a totally preventable accident,” Williams said.
The downward force of the grain makes getting out almost impossible without help; that force is 325 lbs. at waist level, and 625 lbs. at shoulder level.
Neumeier got to experience that first-hand. The more she moved, the more she felt suctioned in, she said, and there would be no way to reach for a cell phone to call for help.
“I can’t move at all,” she said. “It has vacuum packed around my body. I could see where if you got up around your chest, it would suffocate you.”
Safely rescued and dusting off her hands and shoes, which weren’t covered in Tyvek, Neumeier said the exercise was cool, but fighting the loose grain for any length of time would be exhausting.
“It’s an experience you never want to experience,” Williams said.