DPS Helicopter Covers Bluebonnet Festival For Future Safety Planning In Chappell Hill

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CHAPPELL HILL, Texas - An annual event in Washington County was bigger than ever this year as thousands of people hit the road and headed to Chappell Hill for the annual Bluebonnet Festival.

But that prompted some traffic pains and to better assess the crowds, the Sheriff's Office called in a DPS Helicopter to fly overhead.

News 3 looks at how they are using a bird's eye view to prepare for future festivals.

Record crowds flocked to Chappell Hill this weekend for Washington County's annual Bluebonnet Festival.

On the ground, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people enjoyed the festival.

But as festivities were gearing up, a bird's eye view from a DPS Helicopter showed some were still stuck in traffic.

"Chappell Hill is truly a little piece of heaven people love to come here," said Dale Ramey, who's owned The Bluebonnet House and Garden Center for 21 years.

She also helps with public relations for the festival.

"This was our 50th anniversary of the Chappell Hill Historical Society, so we celebrated that with our Bluebonnet Festival," she said.

Something new this year were some eyes in the sky. Sheriff Otto Hanak called in a DPS Helicopter after problems began with some traffic tie-ups along U.S. 290 and F-M 1155.

"We were only able to provide off duty deputies for traffic control. We had TxDOT on board with us managing the light and unfortunately this traffic backed up," Sheriff Hanak said.

While Sheriff Hanak has received some criticism for having DPS spend money to fly the helicopter, he says it could save the county some money in the long run.

"I feel like it's our obligation to our citizens and who come to visit to provide safety and security for them and we do have a plan and we will provide that plan in the near future," he added.

At the Chappell Hill Bank Loan Officer Lynda McLaughlin noticed the helicopter briefly flying overhead.

"Of course there was some comfort in knowing well they are trying to monitor the situation and see how they can get the ground troops to kind of help alleviate some of the problems that they were having," McLaughlin said.

This event has grown so much and one of our great, biggest concerns has been safety and we have such a good board of directors for our historical society that they are working with Sheriff Hanak on this. And we want to be able to get the traffic in and out in a safe manner," said Dale Ramey.

A look at managing safety in a new way.

John Durrenberger, the President of the Chappell Hill Historical Society tells us there was also a perfect storm of events happening in their area including the Blue Bell Fun Run in Brenham, a biker rally at Lake Somerville and the MS 150 bicycle race from Houston to Austin.

Washington County did not have to pay any money for the DPS Helicopter's service and they will be sharing the video with TxDOT for festival planning.