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Council Says Revolution Festival No Longer Town Sponsored Event; Police Make Numerous Drug Arrests

The Revolution Festival took place last Friday and Saturday at the northern end of Freeman Park. Even with forecasts calling for rain, crowds flocked to the area parking outside of the fenced in event. Carolina Beach Police walked the area and within a short time arrested 16 people totaling 36 charges nine of which were felonies. The primary offense was illegal drug use.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council may not give approval for a popular festival to be held at Freeman Park next year after police made numerous drug related arrests on September 7th and 8th at the Revolution Festival. 
 Freeman Park was relatively calm last weekend, but at the northern end near the Carolina Beach Inlet, the popular festival drew crowds despite the forecast for stormy weather. The Carolina Beach Police Department was hired to provide security for the second Revolution Festival held this year. In addition, plain clothes officers walked through the festival looking for illegal drug use and found a number of cases.
According to Carolina Beach Police Chief Kurt Bartley, 16 people were arrested on 36 charges; nine of those were felony charges. Nearly all of the charges were drug related.
The r.EVOLution Music Festival - or Revolution Evolution of Love - took 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.
Councilman Lonnie Lashley raised a concern with the event in June saying he received reports from citizens of numerous people being taken to the hospital. Event organizers said they were not aware of a large number of incidents, but were aware of a few.
Despite concerns expressed by Council and the Town Manager regarding the festival being a "Town sponsored event" the Council approved the second event held last weekend.
At the Council's Tuesday September 11, meeting the Council expressed their dissatisfaction with the event based on police reports of illegal drug activity.
Mayor Pro-Temp Shuttleworth requested discussion of events, vendors and operation of Freeman Park be placed on the agenda following some concerns expressed to him by a citizen.
Freeman Park is one of the few areas on the east coast that permits four-wheel drive vehicles on the beach. Camping and campfires are permitted in designated areas. Each vehicle is required to display a pass to enter the park. The cost of the season permit is $60.00 from January 1 to March 31.  After March 31, the cost of the annual permit is $100. Daily passes are $20.00 at the entrance.  Weekend passes are $40 for 2 days and $50 for 3 days.
According to Town Manager Tim Owens, currently there is only one organized event that has been approved by the Town for Freeman Park. The Revolution Festival.
Owens explained, “The Revolution Festival is entering into its second year and has expanded recently to 2 times per year. This event is sponsored by the Arts and Activities Committee."
He said, "In the past, the event was free with the September event being a ticketed event. The primary reason for charging was to help control the crowd and potentially generate additional revenue for charities.”
He explained, “There were some concerns expressed with the conduct of the crowd at the Spring event. Likewise, I have concerns with some of the content that I have seen on the Revolution website and some concerns with marketing materials. If this event is allowed to continue, I do recommend that the organizers form their own non-profit and hold the event under their name. This set up could help limit any exposure that the Town may have in the future.”
The website is
Owens expressed concerns about insurance liability earlier this year at the Council’s June meeting. Currently the festival operates under the Town’s insurance policy. Several council members said they heard reports from citizens of illegal drug use and numerous incidents of people being taken to the hospital.
The event organizer Michael Oliver said he wasn’t aware of 30 cases of emergency room visits as mentioned by one Council member, but was aware of a few cases.
Police Chief Kurt Bartley verified that one person was taken to the hospital during the last event and placed on a ventilator for several days before being indentified to contact family members. It was unknown if that incident was directly related to the festival, but Bartley said the person was located near the festival.
Oliver said in June the event was free and open to the public and funds to hire security were limited. He told the Council a fee would be charged for the September event in order to increase security and maintain better control over the festival using a fenced in area to enforce rules including no weapons, no glass bottles and no liquor.
Owens explained, “To a lesser extent, there are, on occasion, impromptu events that are held at Freeman Park. These events are typically private gatherings such birthday parties, Boy Scout Troop gatherings, weddings, surf contests, etc. Typically, I have approved these events if they remain small, no tickets are being sold, and are only open to invitation.”
Owens provided information on “Vending On Freeman Park” but didn’t indicate there are concerns about such activity. He explained, “Approximately 3 to 4 years ago, the Town Council allowed vending of items to occur at Freeman Park. The primary reasons considered were the size of the park, the amount of time and effort it would take to leave the park and return, and the service that it would provide patrons whether day trippers, fisherman, or campers.”
He explained the total number of allowed vendors at Freeman Park is 6 (4X4 vendors) and 2 (push cart vendors). Currently, there are a total of 7 approved vendors. The vendors sell food, beverages, sundries, ice, firewood, fishing equipment and beach apparel such as hats, t-shirts and sunglasses.
Owens explained the Town does allow delivery of items to the park provided that a privilege license is acquired from the Town. The delivery of items is not regulated and ranges from pizza, chairs, umbrellas, or any other item that could be delivered. Those delivering items are not permitted to sell items unless an order is specifically placed for that item.
The Town also allows tow truck operators to provide services in Freeman Park provided that they acquire a privilege license to operate in the Town. On major holiday weekends, the Town does periodically contract with towing companies to help insure that the traffic continues to move and back-ups are limited at the entrance to the park. Traffic jams often become a major problem following a number of days without rain when the sand is especially dry. Those dry conditions can make it hard for some vehicles to traverse the beach.
Services the Town Provides within Freeman Park:
• Up to 2 gate attendants on duty during the Summer months
• Roughly 125 trash receptacles that are emptied 1 daily during the week day and 2 to 3 times on weekends during the season. More receptacles with more frequency during holidays.
• Beach sweep for debris on a daily basis often to include in the dune area.
• Rope fencing, sand fencing, and regulatory signage at about 80 hours per month during the summer and 2000 hours in the offseason.
• Street sweeping and other heavy equipment needs on a periodic basis with higher frequency in the summer months
• 1 officer on duty 24 hours a day, year round. Additional officers on duty during summer weekend peak hours and holidays.
• 30 port-a-johns serviced daily throughout the year and twice daily on peak weekends and holidays.
• Up to 4 lifeguards on peak weekends during the summer
• Fire protection and limited medicals calls. The Town is currently working a plan to expand fire protection and rescue capabilities in this area due to the popularity of the park which will be presented to the Town Council once completed.
During the Council's September 11, meeting Councilman Bob Lewis said, "Representatives from the Freeman Park Committee came and talked to me about it" and, "The biggest concern is commercializing Freeman Park. I have the same concern... it's one thing for people to go out there and have their own impromptu event, it's another thing to have an organization go out there, build something and do something."
Lewis said, "I've been supportive of this thing in the past but after reading the Chief's report on the last [Revolution Festival] there's definitely problems out there. I was at the one last year and I saw a ton of illegal drug stuff going on at that time, most people smoking marijuana, but still there were tons of people doing it. It was everywhere."
Lewis explained, "When I look at this report here, it tells me it's actually escalated from that other thing. Someone's out there selling this stuff, now we've got LSD out there, cocaine out there, and there are a lot of different problems and our kids naturally go out there."
He said, "I have a problem with having any event up there that's not just impromptu, people going up there and four or five people getting together."
Owens said the Revolution Festival started as an impromptu event and the Town became aware of it and contacted the organizers to tell them they needed Council's approval.
Councilman Shuttleworth said he received a letter from former Councilman Gary Doetsch who rarely comes to Council with concerns.
He said the Freeman Park Committee was concerned with "commercialization" which was actually large events and not vendors.
He said their concern focused on the Revolution Festival and said, "For me that will be the last time we need a Town sponsored event."
He said, "It's a huge liability" and, "if there is to be any kind of event, in my opinion it would need to be on it's own and carry... their own insurance" like other events held in Town.
Shuttleworth said he visited the festival both days but not at night when the activities reported by the Chief occurred.
He said the Arts and Activities Committee should speak with the organizer and tell them they will have to go on their own and meet stringent requirements.
He said another issue is resolving continuing issues such as trashcans over flowing which are not event driven problems.
Councilmember Sarah Friede said perhaps limiting the number of vehicles permitted in the park would help resolve capacity issues.
Owens said it's hard to operate similar to a park because they can't designate or reserve campsites on the beach. The state will not permit it. And it would be complicated to tell that one person who traveled from Raleigh they can't drive into the park because it's full.
Shuttleworth said they need a plan because, "Not doing anything is not a plan either" and the Town needs to address a "free for all" because it's an issue of stewardship of an Island asset.
Councilman Lewis said, "I can't vote for having another one of these events up there. I'm not telling them not to have it, I'm just saying I don't know that I can support it" after receiving the report from the Police Chief.
Councilman Lonnie Lashley said, "We can take care of this right now. No commercial events. This group, as far as I'm concerned, will never come back. We can't have things like this going on out there. This group cannot go back there again."
The Council agreed a blanket rule stopping all commercial events may cause issues and the Council can continue to consider events on a case-by-case basis.
Earlier in the meeting the Town approved a fishing tournament that could be considered a commercial event in the park.
Mayor Ray Rothrock said the issue should go to the Freeman Park Committee for their review and input.
The Council discussed how to avoid such events taking place without approval.
Owens said the Town can impose fines and take other measures.
Councilman Lashley said he felt the entire Council agreed the event would not be coming back and will not get approval if they do.
No one from the event was present at the Tuesday night meeting.
In addition to arrests related to LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, bath salts and other drug paraphernalia, police encountered other situations.
One person coming from the festival stole a car from an address on Canal Drive, damaged it and left it at a beach access.
One couple was having sex in the back of their pickup truck.
There were six EMS responses.
The mission statement on the event website reads, “Our goal 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!”