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Revolution Festival Set For This Weekend At Freeman Park

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The r.EVOLution Music Festival - or Revolution Evolution of Love - is set to take place at Freeman Park on September 7th and 8th at the North End of Carolina Beach off Canal Drive. The last festival was held in the Spring of this year. The Carolina Beach Town Council gave approval in June for the upcoming festival after discussing various concerns expressed by Council.
At the Council's June 12, meeting Councilman Lonnie Lashley expressed concerns after hearing reports of people hospitalized during the last event. Lashley said his information was "second hand".
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."
Event organizer Michal Oliver confirmed he was aware some people did have to go to the hospital but that he wasn't aware of 30 hospital cases because officers said everything was going fine during the event.
According to the website for the festival at www.revolutionbeachfest.com the stated mission is, "To create an event that supports doing good for the world, while having fun..." and, "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."
Oliver said $500 from the Spring event went to help fund fresh water wells in Africa. Lashley explained he wasn't trying to cancel the event, but also doesn't want to hear that someone "has overdosed, some kid, out at this event."
Police Chief Kirt Bartley said according to their records three people were taken to the hospital and one, "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.
Oliver said he and Town officials had discussed additional security saying, "Right now we hire one officer from 8 to 12, the minimum amount of hours just because we don't make much money."
Oliver said switching from a free event to selling tickets would help fund increased security but noted the North End, "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."
Lashley said he was surprised they had only one officer and questioned the number of people that attended the Spring festival.
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.
Oliver said one idea was to set up a gate at a narrow point in the park, require wristbands and restrict access to that area.
Lashley questioned the authority to charge a fee for an event on the beach.
Town Manger Tim Owens said it's possible to fence in the event similar to what's done each year for the Chamber's Beach Music Festival but noted the Town can't block people from walking along the wet sand beach due to state law.
Owens explained, "I think the biggest 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."
Lashley said, "Certainly you should start charging a fee... 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 she wasn't at the event but heard illegal drug use was "out of control." She said she wasn't inclined to vote for it to continue to be a Town sponsored event. She said, "That it wasn't necessarily people getting drunk, it was people using illegal substances 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" and because of that he was surprised to hear of so many people going to the hospital.
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."
Friede said, "I agree the north end can be absolutely the wild west. It can be out of control."
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."
Councilman Bob Lewis said he heard reports from personal friends of illegal drug use and said, "I've got a couple of people complaining that we are permanent residents and we are buying a [park] 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 said, "I did not see fights of any nature or disorderly conduct" and, "they were all so festive. It was like I was transformed back into Woodstock or something like that."
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."
The event set for this coming weekend was originally scheduled in August, but Bartley requested it be moved to a date after the end of the busy summer  season.
He said, "The beach is getting smaller" due to erosion and urged Oliver to contract a minimum of four officers, "At least until 4am in the morning."
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 held elsewhere in Town.
Oliver said the event could be pushed back to September rather than August per the Chief's concerns.
On Tuesday September 4th, Chief Bartley said the event is hiring 2 officers for Friday and on Saturday they're hiring 2 officers from 12 to 6PM and 3 from 6PM to midnight.
The event began building a stage on the beach last week, but were told by Town Manager Tim Owens to stop work since a State issued permit only permitted the stage for the event days.
The event will be held towards the northern end of Freeman Park. In addition to the event fee of $20 per person (or nothing if you volunteer) the normal Town fee for driving onto the beach still applies. Passes are $20 a day,  $40 for 2 days and $50 for 3. Annual passes are $100.