Children with painted faces licked powdered sugar from their fingers, their tummies full of funnel cake. Nearby, parents browsed among craft booths, greeted neighbors and hoped the rain would hold off. As dark storm clouds rumbled into Ashland on Saturday afternoon, threatening to soak the town’s annual Fall Festival, a gray tower stood alone against the skyline. Colorful footholds jutted out from the wall’s surface; however, any adventurer hoping to reach its craggy summit was out of luck.
The 24-foot tall climbing tower, owned by Marcus Floyd of Columbia Climbing Gym, wasn’t open to climbers at the festival. City officials informed Floyd on Saturday morning that his tower’s insurance coverage wasn’t in order, said Gary Sieckman, president of the Ashland Park Board.
Floyd was the owner of the portable wall that 22-year-old Christine Ewing of Jefferson City was climbing when she fell to her death July 14 at a Mid-Missouri Mavericks baseball game. Floyd contends that the wall had undergone an inspection not long before Ewing’s accident, and her fall was the result of product failure — namely, a faulty cable.
“I’ve had no accidents in 10 years. Then something happens because of the way something’s made, and I’m deemed a criminal,” Floyd said.
Floyd is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Ewing’s death. His preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 24 in Boone County.
Sieckman said organizers would not have objected to Floyd operating his wall Saturday if he had shown the proper insurance.
“This is the biggest bunch of vendors I think I’ve ever seen here, and a great turnout,” Stegeman said. “Maybe it’s because of the bad publicity, but I haven’t seen anyone over there (at the wall) all day.”
Floyd said he hopes his appearance in Ashland will get more people excited about climbing. “I’m part of the community, and I’m not leaving,” Floyd said.