Township board OKs EF 2016

November 3, 2015

EF 2015 - 6By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

GRANT TWP. — Electric Forest Festival 2016 got the green light from the Grant Township Board with a split 3-2 vote Tuesday evening, Nov. 3, during a public hearing for a mass gathering permit.

Electric Forest Festival 2016 is set for June 23-26 at the Double JJ Resort located in the township, which has a population of around 3,000. The four-day festival attracts tens of thousands of people from across the country and Canada who celebrate music, the arts and individuality.

Grant Township board members (left to right) James Aebig, Joanne Heck, Roger Schmidt, William Wagner and Joan Brooks during Tuesday night's meeting.

Grant Township board members (left to right) James Aebig, Joanne Heck, Roger Schmidt, William Wagner and Joan Brooks during Tuesday night’s meeting.

EF 2016 will be the sixth year for the annual event. The Double JJ Ranch hosted a similar gigantic music and arts celebration, Rothbury Festival, in 2008 and 2009.

A request from festival organizers to increase stage hours later into the night was denied by the board. They requested increasing the hours Thursday from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Friday 3 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.; Saturday 3 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.; and Sunday 2 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.

Voting in favor of the mass gathering permit were Supervisor Roger Schmidt, Clerk William Wagner and Trustee Joan Brooks. Treasurer Joanne Heck and Trustee James Aebig cast the “no” votes.

The board voted to approve the permit with same stage times as last year with a road funding allowance of $4 per EF ticket. For every EF ticket sold, the township receives $4, and 25 percent of the revenue goes to the Village of Rothbury. Last year, the township and village received $162,392 from the ticket sales, Aebig said.

Local citizens spoke in favor and against the festival. Those in opposition cited concerns with traffic, noise, trespassing, garbage, drug use, nudity and underage drinking. Those in favor of it stated that the event draws more people to the area year-round, which creates more revenue for the local economy.

“I make my decision based on the health and safety of the community,” Aebig said. “It’s an at-risk event, and I don’t EF 2015 - 4think it’s worth the risk. The money isn’t worth it. With the music going on all night, it’s asinine to me. I’m not in favor of this festival.”

“I represent the people of this community, and the majority are not complaining,” said Brooks. “I don’t vote based on my personal morals.”

“I’m entirely in favor of the festival,” said Wagner. “The benefits outweigh a little resentment.”

Heck said she voted “no” because of the laws regarding “drinking, drugs and nudity” are ignored by the festival goers, although tax-paying residents are expected to follow the laws. “It’s a week of people being allowed to do whatever they want.”

“Why aren’t we concerned with the ones who are against it?” Aebig asked. “People have to work on Monday, and the music is playing all night long.”

“I think it’s a great asset to our community,” said resident Theresa Briggs. “As a whole, our community has embraced it.”

EF 2015 - 7“I live right in the midst of it, and it doesn’t bother me,” said Delores Price, whose late husband Roy Price was named in honor of the festival’s annual food drive. The last food drive generated over 14,000 pounds of food that was distributed to seven local food pantries, she said.

“Anyone I have spoken to has complained about it,” said resident Laura Krentz. Due to the traffic a few years ago, she was unable to get to a doctor’s appointment.

“There is flagrant drug use, and we are putting a rubber stamp on it,” said Diane Aebig.

The money generated from the 2015 event’s ticket sales will be used to repave about a ¾-mile section of Water Road (the road where the Double JJ Resort is located) from Park Road to Arthur Road, said Schmidt.

Don McCormick, who owns the nearby Lucky Lake Campground, said he is in favor of it and against it. McCormick said he is unhappy with the decision last year to use an area for camping that was designated for entrance and parking. “You can’t throw 4,000 people into a field without notice,” he said. He also said that he thinks festival organizers are not being honest with the township about ticket sales — that they are selling far more tickets than what they’re telling township officials. “I bet you anything your tickets aren’t like theirs,” he said.EF 2015 -3

“They help me support 130 employees, and I couldn’t do it without them,” said Double JJ Resort owner Norm Halbower. “I’m trying to be objective. I know it’s not perfect, but it serves a function.” Halbower said the popularity of the Sherwood Forest, a big attraction during the festival, draws customers to his business year-round. “Guests want to see the Sherwood Forest.”

Halbower said he has been making many needed improvements at the resort and invested $250,000 in improvements in the past month.

As far as the rumors of there being a second festival next summer, Schmidt said the township has not been approached. Halbower said, “I don’t believe there will be a second festival.”

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