Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival 2007

When the music’s over

Only 14 arrests made at four-day event; visitors say last year’s police presence kept ‘riff-raff’ out

Melody Strassmann of Fort Smith, Ark., pulls down her tent as the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival at Clinton State Park comes to an end on Sunday.

Melody Strassmann of Fort Smith, Ark., pulls down her tent as the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival at Clinton State Park comes to an end on Sunday.

June 11, 2007


The thousands of mostly happy campers started taking down their tents Sunday evening in between hearing more from some of their favorite bands at the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival.

Mike Milhon, of Wichita, packs up to head home on last day of the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival at Clinton Lake on Sunday.

Mike Milhon, of Wichita, packs up to head home on last day of the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival at Clinton Lake on Sunday.

The kinder and gentler atmosphere pledged this year by organizers seemed to prevail as the four-day festival at Clinton State Park came to a close early this morning.

"I love it. It's just a good time. I love people. I love watching people," said Pat McAtee, 58, of Wellington.

She didn't think she could make it through four days of camping with her friends and her son, Kenny Etter, and grandson, Hunter, 8.

A mattress rests on a small volkswagen as people begin to pack and leave the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival at Clinton Lake on Sunday.

A mattress rests on a small volkswagen as people begin to pack and leave the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival at Clinton Lake on Sunday.

Wakarusa Festival comes to a peaceful end

As the festival wraps up, organizers call today's grand finale simply harmonious. This time last year organizers, concert goers, and law enforcement were at odds. Enlarge video

But McAtee had so much fun that the time flew. She took a break at the campsite Sunday evening as her friends starting taking down the group's tents.

Wakarusa 2007: Spencer Sorenson, 19, Lawrence

Spencer Sorenson, 19, Lawrence, talks about the bands he's seen at the festival. Enlarge video

Wakarusa 2007: Lori Barrow, Peoria, Ill.

Lori Barrow, Peoria, Ill., talks about her impression of the festival. Enlarge video

Wakarusa 2007: UA students Blake Cullum and Alistair Cook

University of Arkansas students Blake Cullum, 23, left, and Alistair Cook, 22, talks about what brought them to the Wakarusa Festival. Enlarge video

Wakarusa 2007: Pat McAtee, 58, Wellington

Pat McAtee, 58, Wellington, discusses her first visit to the festival. Enlarge video

Positive reviews from fans were music to the ears of festival director Brett Mosiman. One year ago, the event was marred by a traffic jam the first day caused by only two lanes used for security searches of vehicles entering the grounds, and fans also criticized law enforcement efforts, including hidden cameras at the park and a highway checkpoint that led to searches for drugs and other items.

Festival attendance was down to about 12,000 people per day, compared with 15,000 last year, Mosiman said. He speculated higher gas prices may have played a role.

He considered the weekend a success because fans were happier with the new traffic and security measures.

"We saw (fans) waving to the officers again. It was really important for us to turn that relationship around from last year," he said.

Douglas County Sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Kari Wempe said Sunday evening that officers had arrested 14 people throughout the weekend; about 80 arrests were made in 2006. Arrests this year were mostly on charges of underage drinking, with some for drug use and drug sales. Thirty people had also been evicted for various reasons, Wempe said.

She also said measures taken last year probably worked to deter the drug presence this year, and the crowd seemed calmer this year.

"They recognize that law enforcement is here for their security, and we're just not seeing the amount of drugs that we've seen in past years," Wempe said.

Some fans agreed.

"The nice thing is, I think because of last year, most of the riff-raff is out," said Scott Christoffel, 28, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Spencer Sorenson, 19, of Lawrence, said he had an encounter with law enforcement earlier Sunday.

"They were actually cool. Last year they were really mean," he said.

One group of campers said they witnessed someone being arrested at a neighboring campsite Saturday. Several officers apprehended the suspect, but they said they didn't know specifically what happened.

"It hasn't been too bad. I haven't seen too much," said Marcus Simmons, a Columbia College student from Chicago.

The weather also was mostly cooperative. Most of the campers rode out an early Sunday downpour in the comfort of their tents or vehicles, Wempe said.

Fans raved about the musical performances of Yonder Mountain String Band and other groups. Some campers Sunday evening were still looking forward to the last of the performances, like Michael Franti & Spearhead.

"If more bands keep coming, and it keeps getting better, I'll be back," said Blake Cullum, a University of Arkansas student who celebrated his 23rd birthday over the weekend.

Mosiman expected it to take about eight to nine days to completely clear away stages, fences and other items. Hundreds of volunteers will be used to take away trash and recyclable items, he said.

- 6News reporter Haley Harrison contributed information to this story.


RonaldWilson 10 years, 10 months ago

14 people arrested and it's called a success. Damn dirty hippies...

Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks festival goers for making the event fun and enjoyable. We are looking forward to your return next year. Oh yes Lawrence city government is also pleased with YOUR financial contribution to our city. Hurry back for more fun and music and BTW why don't you all just move here if you vote.

Mike Blur 10 years, 10 months ago

Timothy Finn, in his "Back to Rockville" blog, noted the lighter crowds compared to last year as well. He ascribed it to the inability of Waka promoters to book a headliner with "crossover" appeal a la the Flaming Lips. That may be true, somewhat. Maybe Mosiman's explanation--high gas prices--might also be true, just a bit.

But, really. These kids have money, and if they can afford the high ticket prices (and yes, the can) they can split gas costs. The real reason why attendance dipped 20 percent, despite fabulous weather, was the draconian police and security presence from last year. Kids saw what happened last year, and deduced that it would not be worth it to travel all the way to Kansas to get hassled by The Man.

Bonnaroo is this weekend--let's see if attendance is down there as well. I doubt it. Crowds get bigger every year at Bonnaroo.

oldvet 10 years, 10 months ago

I may not recognize the song or know the words, but I sure like the Melody... :^D

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

I was going to second that sentiment. I have an even better idea. How about all of you old (and by old I don't mean in years but in attitude) grumpy, hateful jerks all leave and never come back. We will not miss you, believe me.

Nick Combs 10 years, 10 months ago

Melody Strassmann is a hottie.

Just saying.

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

b3 - my family is living here just fine......

meggers 10 years, 10 months ago

I'll take victimless crime over hateful intolerance any day of the week. A closed mind is a wonderful thing to lose, b3.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

Uh b3, how long have you been here? This place has always been a safe haven for hippies and liberals and basically those of us who don't want you jerkoffs stepping all over our lives. My family loves it here. If you don't like it, don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya!

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

ROFLMAO!! How funny. b3, I'm sorry but you're so deluded it's almost painful to watch. Aside from your atrocious spelling, someone should also teach you a few truths about life. No one is going to murder over weed and x. It's not like either one of them are motivational drugs. Either way, the solution to your problem is quite simple. Pack your family up and move them far out into the country. That way, the big bad hippies of Lawrence won't be able to...I don't know....get patchoulie on them and also, the silver lining is, they don't spell very well in the country either, so you'll fit right in.

Nick Combs 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree with the dancing grey-shirt chick being a hottie also.

meggers 10 years, 10 months ago

b3, Perhaps you can point me to the article you are referring to? I read today's paper and I somehow missed reading about any incidents of violence, robbery, or other person-to-person crimes at wakarusa- let alone any such incidents involving drugs.

meggers 10 years, 10 months ago

And that incident had WHAT to do with the festival?

If pot alone induced some sort of "reefer madness" mentality, turning otherwise non-violent persons into murderous criminals, how does one explain the absence of such behavior at wakarusa?

meggers 10 years, 10 months ago

Do you mean shortages, b3? According to the article posted by passionannex, the thieves in the local case stole money, not drugs. And I highly doubt that either the victims or the perpetrators would classify themselves as hippies.

Do you have any examples that actually pertain to Wakarusa?

ryanjasondesch 10 years, 10 months ago

You guys, b3 just masks his contempt for our local economy with this 'anit-hippy' thing. It's really local businesses that benefit from Wakarusa that he hates.

meggers 10 years, 10 months ago

Believe me, b3, there is nothing lazy about saving money for the ticket and trip, hauling one's possessions halfway across the country, setting up camp, walking or riding a bicycle upwards of five miles per day, dancing half of the day and night in the heat, dealing with unpredictable weather, and cooking, cleaning, and bathing in semi- primitive conditions.

Not to mention, getting just a few hours of sleep each night, and then when it's all over, packing up and either driving hundreds of miles to the next show, or hundreds of miles home.

And that isn't even taking into consideration any mishaps that might occur en route to the destination (blown tire, head gasket, or such).

It would probably be instructive for you to learn more about the jam band culture, before you paint everyone with the same broad brush stroke. You might be surprised. In fact, I would venture to guess that in terms of physical exertion, most waka attendees worked harder during the festival than most people ever do while on vacation.

Killer music is a powerful motivator.

nell 10 years, 10 months ago

b3, your opinion of the festival is informed by the fears of your imagination. I've been a locally employed, tax paying, health-insured, home owning citizen for years. Like many, many other people, I volunteered for a local charity at Wakarusa. Thanks for calling me lazy. I served beverages, including beer, and the very few drunk people I saw were over 45. I didn't run into an inconsiderate soul. I saw young entrepreneurs making an honest living doing what they love. In a tent city, security was not a problem. You should have seen the decent, loving families with all ages of children, parents and, yes, grandparents. I think you are confusing "decent" with "just like me."

ryanjasondesch 10 years, 10 months ago

Whoa whoa there Marlboro Man, let's not get carried away now. How many fully loaded automatic weapons were seized this weekend at the festival? How many people were run over? How many arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, or weapons violations were made? White or black has no relevance here whatsoever, and yes there is a big difference between someone toking a J at a music fest and a series of violent events that continually plague a particular local bar, i.e. a "hippy" using marijuana is perhaps only a danger to himself, a "thug" who is possibly involved in gang activity carrying a loaded AK is a danger to many, many people those present and those affected by the fear of his possible presence whether observed or not. And that "thug" might be white.

While you're attempting to portray an apples to apples comparison, you're really only still comparing apples to oranges.

lunacydetector 10 years, 10 months ago

when the music's over,

turn out the lights

BunE 10 years, 10 months ago

Grace Potter was so hot I can hardly stand it.

Smashy Smashy!

Meatwad 10 years, 10 months ago

HIGHER GAS PRICES are maybe the reason this years attendance was down 12,000 or so from last year?????? COME ON! Everyone on the planet knows the reason attendance was down. It's because last year the state troopers and other law enforcement agencies absolutely harrassed and terrorized the people attending the festival whether they were doing anything wrong or not. To say they were overzealous in their job is a gross understatement. It's so sad what they have done to this beautiful festival. I hope they are happy. I have to say that this year I heard of VERY little harrassment by law enforcement so maybe their leaders decided that the festival patrons would be treated like human beings this year. I also saw festival patrons waving to and joking around with state troopers and that made me smile. It shouldn't be an US vs THEM. They should be there to protect people, to prevent underage drinking and to keep drug dealers away, not to harrass each and every person there. Thank goodness they seem to have switched more or less to protect mode this year.

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