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Carolina Beach Council Discusses Issues With Revolution Music Festival

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council recently discussed the Revolution Beach and Music Festival that's been held at Freeman Park on the North End of Pleasure Island for several years.
Town Councilman Lonnie Lashley expressed concerns last month after hearing reports of people hospitalized during the event.
During the Council's Tuesday June 12, meeting, Lashley explained, "What I heard, and this is all second and third hand, I was told by a citizen and an emergency room nurse at a hospital had at least 30 people come in during this event. How true that is I have no idea. I've asked that person to come, I don't see that person here tonight so it's all second hand as far as I can say."
Lashley said he read an email from Town Manager Tim Owens, "Reference that the interim police chief and he had talked to you and you all were aware of some people that did have to go to the hospital. Is that correct?"
Event organizer Michal Oliver confirmed that.
According to the website for the festival at the stated mission of the festival is, "To create an event that supports doing good for the world, while having fun, without requiring additional effort from the user. For example, many people set aside money for Festival Season.. but we'd like to inspire you to put that in a place where it'll be used to help the world. The profits from our festival goes to charity, so the more funds we can raise the more good that can be done. We also support sustainable living. From using solar power, having recycling bins, to thoroughly sweeping ALL the trash off the beach from the event.. we do everything we can within our means to take the best possible care of our Mother Earth as we can. More than anything else, we hope to inspire YOU to join us and be a part of the movement! If we can make the amazing experience of music festivals even more amazing with the good karma of helping less fortunate, we stand to really do a lot of good for the world. With a little luck we might even change the world!"
Earlier this year the proceeds went to help fund fresh water wells in Africa.
The next event is set for August 24 and 25.
Lashley explained, "I was also told that an 18-year old was missing for a few days who was in the hospital and didn't give his correct name so his parents were very upset that they didn't know where he was. That's all hearsay. I have no one standing up verifying that."
He explained, "I am concerned about the event. Four or five years ago I would come to Council trying to get lifeguards out on the North End. I had to beat them to death to finally get them."
Lashley explained, "I don't want, on my and this council's watch, to receive something or hear that someone has overdosed, some kid, out at this event. So I'm concerned about that. I would like to know how many policemen you have at this event. If we use any of our police that we fund a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. We have four or five police that patrol out there."
The event was held earlier this year with a second event planned for this coming August.
Lashley explained, "I'm not trying to cancel this event at all. I think it's a great event. I voted for it... but I am concerned."
Oliver said he and Town officials have been discussing additional security. Oliver explained, "Right now we hire one officer from 8 to 12, the minimum amount of hours just because we don't make much money."
He said he wasn't aware of 30 hospital cases because officers said everything was going fine during the event.
He said, "Basically if we increased the amount of security it would help. One thing that I personally think would help, you know how the North End is; it can get pretty wild out there anyway. I think we are getting a lot of people who are just out there anyway maybe really, really drunk. We don't sell alcohol. That's not what we are trying to support. I think there are some people out there that are really drunk and get kind of wild. My idea is to make it a ticketed event. Make it a really cheap; ten bucks... then we can afford more police security. We can watch over the dunes better, and I think that would help make it a lot more tight."
Oliver said they are trying to refine the event each year to make it better. This year they designated an area for camping to keep tents removed from areas where vehicles typically drive on the beach within the park.
Lashley explained, "I'm surprised you guys have one police officer. How many people do you have come to this event?"
Oliver said fall of last year, "We had maybe six or seven hundred. This year we had almost 3,000. So we really expanded quite a bit. The biggest problem is that we are free. We don't have any money to pay for police and security and things like that. We profit very, very little. Some comes back to the Town, some goes to charity."
He said the recommendation to have four officers each night would be a good move adding that officers are not oppressive and are very friendly.
Lashley explained, "I like your idea of charging ten dollars" to help pay for additional police.
Oliver said the event is held towards the northern end of the park. He said, "Our idea is to set up a gate at the skinniest point of the north end [beach] and just have the gate there so we could do wrist bands to make sure people aren't coming in on boats and things like that. Make things a little more organized."
Lashley questioned the authority to charge a fee for an event on the beach.
Town Manger Tim Owens explained, "We can do that. It's very similar to the beach music festival" that's held on the beach in front of the Carolina Beach Boardwalk downtown. That event fences off a section of the beach and charges a fee for access. However, the Town can't block people from walking along the wet sand beach east of the high tide line due to state law.
Owens explained, "I think the biggest concern that falls in line with your concern is that this is a Town sponsored event. Basically, our insurance, if something were to happen to folks, that would be the one to take a hit." He explained, "If it was a non-profit and they had their own insurance and named the Town additional insured, there's less liability for us. But that would be the biggest concern, that you get somebody out there that gets hurt and they sue the Town because of this, that or the other."
Lashley said, "Certainly you should start charging a fee come this August or whenever you are going to have it. I would also recommend that we, if you need more police attendance, we provide three or four policemen if we can. Even if we have to use some of our extra funds. It's a Town sponsored event. I just don't want to see it go bad."
Council member Sarah Friede said, "I heard, and I didn't attend... my information is second hand, I heard the illegal drug use was out of control. So I would not be inclined to vote for it to continue to be a Town sponsored event. That it wasn't necessarily people getting drunk, it was people using illegal substances and that was the source of the problem."
Oliver said, "I can understand that concern. The biggest thing is since it' public like that we have a really hard time monitoring what people put in their mouths. Beyond that, we do everything we possibly can. We pick up every bit of trash and I check with the officers every other hour to make sure everything is fine. They had actually told me throughout the weekend that everything was fine. So when I heard that there was all of these people going to the hospital, I was really surprised because I asked continuously to make sure everything was fine."
Friede asked for input from the police and fire departments.
Elaine Stewart of the Town's Arts and Activities Committee said, "We have been working with Michal for the last three years on this event. I have attended it. The people that go to this event are eco-friendly, they are into art, music... my question is, how do you separate this festival from the rest of the north end. Because I know the rest of the north end is wild and wooly. So how can you pinpoint a finger and say that came from that festival when there is a different kind of clientele there verses the other end of the north end."
She explained, "I've been there and I've seen it."
Friede said, "I agree the north end can be absolutely the wild west. It can be out of control."
Stewart said, "You go by the wild west, you get to the end and you see all these people all happy with their hula-hoop’s and dancing... and they're cleaning up and Michal every hour checks with the police officer."
She explained, "I was there last year and it was a great feeling with all of these types of people and they are into their music. Michal has bands coming from Boston, Cincinnati; they are coming from all over the place. They are putting Carolina Beach on the map. Then they clean up the beach and it's cleaner than when they started the festival."
She said she was not at the most recent event.
Mayor Ray Rothrock said that was a difference of about 2,500 people from last year to this year.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "I think the issue becomes, it's a Town sponsored event. The coordination and sophistication of an event that has 3,000 people is beyond the original purview of a Town sponsored event. If you guys have grown to that point, you need to find someone to hook up with and sponsor it because it is the insurance. We are not going to sit up here and point fingers at one group or another group, the police can sort that out." He said, "My issue is, as a Town sponsored event we need to be very cautious of what occurs."
Stewart said, "I don't think you can go on hearsay. I think you need facts. That would be police reports; those are public record, get police reports and find out exactly where on the north end. 30 people in the emergency room, that is a concern. And you need to find out exactly was that on
the north end or was it just on Carolina Beach. You need to do facts and not hearsay. Because only believe half of what you see and nothing about what you hear."
Councilman Bob Lewis explained, "I wasn't there personally, but I have two people who are personal friends who were there and told me there were illegal drugs going on right in front of the bands. There were one or two people overly intoxicated. One person fell down and actually was removed some way."
Lewis explained, "I've got a couple of people complaining that we are permanent residents and we are buying a pass out there and now you're having these big events and there are so many people out there that we can't get out there. The thing has just become larger than life."
Vinny Doria - owner of Uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria and Ristorante - said he was the only vendor at the festival earlier this year and was present for three days at the festival.
He said, "I did not see fights of any nature or disorderly conduct. Like she says, all of the kids over there, they were all so festive. It was like I was transformed back into Woodstock or something like that. Everyone was just peaceful, chilling out and having a good time. I felt honored to be there and soon as we were done I begged Michal please, if we are going to do this again I want to be a vendor. I want to be here next time."
Doria said he understands the liability issues and selling wristbands at $10 each would generate $30,000 for 3,000 people and cover their expenses for insurance. He said the people attending the event today will grow into society later in life and remember Carolina Beach as a great place.
Doria said he didn't witness people crawling around drunk or fighting.
Oliver said the people that attend the festival care about each other and the earth and, "This year the money we raised was to build wells in Africa for water."
Interim Police Chief Kurt Bartley explained, "I think their event has been going well up until this event. I think their management overall has
been good up until this event and they got the amount of people that they weren't expecting. I think they've stepped into the realm of how big are they, how are they going to manage it."
Bartley said, "The one thing I would ask is that we don't do this in our main months of the summer. May, June, July and August is the peak of the summer and you're talking about 3,000 people. The beach is getting smaller" due to erosion. He also urged Oliver to contract a minimum of four officers, "At least until 4am in the morning."
Bartley said, "According to our records there were three people taken to the hospital, one actually was on a ventilator for a couple of days and then they contacted his mother."
He said, "I can't say he was there at the festival" but he was nearby that area within Freeman Park.
Council member Friede recommended sending the item back to the Arts and Activities Committee to consider perhaps limiting the number of people, a minimum number of police officers. She said, "So that it doesn't get out of control like that again."
Shuttleworth said he would encourage them to come up with a more structured plan and, "At all possible to get a sponsor for the event" other than the Town.
Other events such as the Beach Music Festival and the Steve Haydu Lo-Tide Charity Run are not Town Sponsored events, they are organized by separate non-profit organizations.
Oliver said the event could be pushed back to September rather than August per the Chief's concerns.
He said, "I've kind of held off on a lot of the planning just to wait and see what you guys wanted to do."
Mayor Rothrock said the direction is for Oliver to check with the Planning Department to see if a recently issued state coastal permit can be extended to cover the event in September rather than August.