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Published: Saturday, 7/10/2004

Fights shorten the fun at fest

A series of fights, some believed to be gang-related, forced the early closure last night of the 21st annual Lagrange Street Polish Festival.

The festival was to run until 10 last night, but police ordered it shut down about half an hour early.

"It was precautionary," said Terry Glazer, executive director of the Lagrange Development Corp., which sponsors the festival. "We didn't want to jeopardize anyone's safety."

Early in the evening, some of the 25 off-duty officers working at the festival reported youths flashing gang signs and taunting one another.

By about 9 p.m., the taunting escalated to altercations, primarily in the area of Lagrange and Central Avenue.

A number of police crews were ordered into the area to maintain control, and officers decided about 9:30 p.m. to shut the festival down and ask festival-goers to leave.

At least three people were arrested.

Mr. Glazer said police did a good job handling the situation.

A fence was supposed to surround the festival, which runs along Lagrange from Central to Mettler Street, but the firm installing the fence arrived late and didn't complete its work until well after the festival began, Mr. Glazer said.

That allowed people to enter the festival unimpeded.

The three-day festival will resume at noon today and continue until 10 tonight, and run from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Today and tomorrow, there will be four entrances - at Central, Mettler, and two at Dexter Street.

The festival, Mr. Glazer said, has "always been safe. Nobody got hurt [last night], and [today] it will be safer still."

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