Indiana city to protect itself from festival suits

By The Associated Press

PERU — A north-central Indiana city with a rich history tied to circuses is taking steps to protect itself from liability in any accidents that might occur during its annual circus-themed festival.

Peru Clerk-Treasurer Jackie Gray told the Kokomo Tribune that two people filed tort claims against the city last year for injuries they suffered during the Circus City Festival. She said one person tripped over a water line installed for a festival vendor and the other person tripped while stepping off a sidewalk.

City Attorney Bill Berkshire said no lawsuits have been brought against the city, but the individuals have two years to do so after filing the claims. He said he believes last year was the first time individuals filed tort claims against the city due to incidents at the summer festival.

Berkshire said the city is requesting that festival organizers put a clause in their insurance policy to waive the city from liability.

Mark Allen of Webster Insurance Agency, which insures both the city and the festival, said the festival plans to add a clause that would hold the festival or its vendors, and not the city, responsible for any accidents.

“Just because the festival is held in Peru doesn’t mean the city did anything wrong,” he said. “This would be a good safeguard for the city.”

Peru Mayor Jim Walker said the city allows the festival to use its infrastructure, such as water and electricity, at no cost. He said around 10,000 people attend the event, which is scheduled this year for the week of July 13.

“This policy wouldn’t apply to just the circus, but to anybody who wanted to come into town and set up a festival,” he said. “It would be stated they would have to sign something that would hold us harmless.”

The Circus City Festival Inc. was formed in 1960 to celebrate Miami County’s circus heritage dating to the late 1800s when the area was the winter home for numerous circuses. The city about 50 miles southwest of Fort Wayne is also home to the International Circus Hall of Fame.

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