Festival deemed a hot success

Concerts end on peaceful note, but police investigating death

The Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival drew toward a close late Sunday much the way it began, with bands performing on stage and thousands of people having a good time.

Festival organizers estimated that about 50,000 people attended the four-day event at Clinton Lake State Park, which began Thursday and continued until the last band – Lawrence’s Split Lip Rayfield – was expected to leave the stage about 1:30 this morning.

The only serious black mark to the festival was the death of a man Sunday afternoon. Douglas County Sheriff’s officers and other agencies were trying to determine the man’s identity and why he died. Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Woods said there was no indication of foul play.

“He was lying on the ground, and somebody went over to check on him, didn’t find a pulse, and medical (personnel were) called,” Woods said.

The man, who appeared to be in his 20s, was found about 4:15 p.m. near the entrance to the main festival grounds and stage area, Woods said. Officers were trying to talk to people who might have known the man.

“They aren’t real cooperative right now,” Woods said. He said he expected an autopsy would be performed.

The incident occurred as a steady stream of vehicles and people left the campgrounds area from west of the stages either to attend more concerts or to leave the park.

Brett Mosiman, organizer of the festival, said he was aware of the death but didn’t know much about it. He referred questions to the sheriff’s office. Otherwise, Mosiman was pleased with the event.

“We were really blessed with the weather,” Mosiman said. “Four perfect days; that doesn’t happen in Kansas very much.”

Mosiman said the festival went smoothly, despite the crowd that doubled the size of last year’s. The festival sold out of all of its available tickets for the first three days, leaving only some one-day passes for Sunday, said Heather Lofflin, festival spokeswoman.

In addition to festival-goers, there were nearly 100 vendors selling everything from food to scarves, jewelry and body art. Phil Kutno arrived from Berkeley, Calif., to set up a booth where he sold oil paintings and penciled drawings mainly of rock stars such as Mick Jagger and John Lennon.

“I’ve sold a lot of detailed psychedelics,” he said, pointing to drawings of a psychedelic montage. “I sold an oil painting of Jerry Garcia. This has been a good festival.”

Campgrounds were still packed with people Sunday evening, although some festival-goers appeared tired and were prepared to leave.

“It’s been a good weekend,” said Bill Roche, 29, of Independence, Mo. “We don’t have as far to go home as some of the others.

Roche, his wife, Carla Roche, 29, and friend Cindy Hung, 20, rested under an awning surrounded by camping gear and their vehicles. They had come with several other friends from Independence.

Nearby, three people from the San Jose, Calif., area relaxed under a tent cover they had stretched between the tops of a sport utility vehicle and a car. Trever Benitiz, 20, ate a bowl of cereal while Paul Divittorio, 20, sat on the SUV tailgate. A woman they identified as Marcy Elliott, 20, slept on the ground near them.

“We’ve had some late nights,” Benitiz said.

Festival organizers said they had no idea how much beer or food was consumed during the festival. But an estimated 400 New Belgium Brewing Co. beer kegs were stacked on rows of pallets near transport trucks ready to be loaded and hauled away.

“It’s been quite a job,” said Karla Schunig, who managed a warehouse used by the festival in the Kansas City area. “It takes a lot of effort to keep it (beer) flowing.”

Other than the death investigation, law enforcement officers had few problems to deal with during the festival, Woods said. Sheriff’s officers set up a mobile command post near one end of the campgrounds. There had been one arrest for criminal damage to property, Woods said. Small amounts of marijuana also were confiscated, but no arrests were made.

“It’s been a peaceful crowd,” Woods said.

Besides the man’s death, there were a few medical calls on Sunday, but nothing was thought to be serious, said Division Chief Jim King of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical.

Looking ahead

Festival crews will probably remain at the state park most of this week cleaning up, Mosiman said.

“It probably takes us longer to clean up and wrap up than it did to put it together,” he said. “We try to have the park looking like it did two weeks ago.”

Mosiman commended state officials for allowing the festival to take place the past two years at Clinton.

“We want to make it a long-term event,” he said. “We’ll sit down with the state and plot our course.”