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Butte police measure crowds for Knievel Days patrols

By Colin Cashin, KTVM Reporter, ccashin@ktvm.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:26:15 AM MDT
Updated On: Jul 24 2014 08:55:33 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

Legendary stuntman and Butte native Evel Knievel rides again.

To help kickoff the first day of the annual Evel Knievel Days festival, organizers held the "7-inch Daredevil Jump" at the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse.

An Evel Knievel action figure from 1972 had no trouble jumping over five volunteers Thursday afternoon, including pro-BMX rider Mat Hoffman and Butte Chief Executive Matt Vincent.

We caught up with Hoffman after the jump. He says he's excited to be in Butte, "Evel Knievel's spirit and just the go forward attitude and making the impossible possible. That's what we're all here to celebrate."

With Uptown the center of the Evel Knievel Days action, there are some street closures.

Portions of Park, Broadway, Granite, Ohio, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming are blocked off in the Uptown area. The city also closed six parking lots and rerouted several buses.

Evel Knievel Days is typically one of Butte's rowdier festivals, but organizers have promised a more family-friendly festival this year.

NBC Montana talked to police to see just how they plan to keep everyone safe this year.

Evel Knievel Days brings daredevils, extreme sports, and excitement to the city of Butte every year. But Evel Knievel Days President Terri James says her organization is prepared for anything that could happen.

James told us, "We've actually worked closely with police and security making sure it's a safe event for everyone."

Hundreds gathered in Uptown Butte for the first day of the three-day event. While festival-goers we spoke to knew it can be rowdy, they say it's all about having fun and keeping Knievel's spirit alive.

"Lot of people, lot of bikes, lot of fun, lot of food," exclaimed attendee Pete Pizzola.

Attendee Mike Garrett told us, "Evel Knievel was a great American legend. He was willing to do things that no one had the courage to do."

While attendance is expected to be high throughout the weekend, Butte-Silver Bow police say it's Thursday night's attendance that they use to determine how much law enforcement is needed throughout the event.

"If the crowd's not huge on Thursday then we don't expect much on Friday-Saturday," explained Butte-Silver Bow Undersheriff George Skuletich, "But if the crowd is blown out on Thursday, then we'll adjust for Friday-Saturday also."

Skuletich tells us 30 of his officers will be out on foot looking for everything from unruly behavior to underage drinking.

"Quite a few officers walking in groups of four. That helps keep it under control," explained the Skuletich.

Montana Highway Patrol is also adding more officers in an effort to keep drunk drivers off the road.

Terri James is optimistic the festival will go safely and smoothly, saying they're, "Honoring a legend. A world famous name of Evel Knievel. I mean, he's known throughout the world."