Music festival prep continues

Aaron Brockway, Independence, Kan., left, and Aaron Kern, Neodesha, Kan., work to assemble the stage supports for the main stage in preparation for Wakarusa Fest, Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at Clinton Lake State Park.

The tie-dye shirts are showing up in bunches.

Clinton State Park will soon be Douglas County’s second-largest city. The fifth edition of the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival returns to the park Thursday through Sunday.

“You get to the point (after four years) where it all seeks that common flow and things tend to go pretty well – knock on wood,” said Jerry Schecher, manager of the state park.

Festival director Brett Mosiman said he expected attendance to average out to 12,000 people per day to match last year, which was down from 15,000 per day in 2006.

“What we’re seeing trending is that the four-day tickets are a little down and the single-day tickets are a little up,” Mosiman said.

Fuel prices and the economy may be to blame for that, he said, but promoters have also tried to sell more single-day tickets and weekend passes. The Flaming Lips, Cake, Emmylou Harris and Ben Folds are scheduled to perform in the five-stage festival that will include 125 bands.

The past four years have brought campers from across the country to the festival, and west Lawrence businesses are gearing up to handle the influx.

“We’ve done it enough that we know what they want and all those kinds of things. It’s certainly a good thing for us,” said Stan Thompson, store operations manager for the Hy-Vee, 3504 Clinton Parkway.

The grocery operates a general store, and a shuttle bus also runs from the state park to the shopping center.

“Assuming the weather’s nice, it should be a real good weekend, double what we normally do,” said Parkway Wine and Spirits owner Brian Fadden.

At Miller Mart, 2301 Wakarusa Drive, the convenience store has hired people to help, and the store will even adjust hours to be open earlier in the morning and later at night, said manager Bishwa Sherchan.

Organizers and law enforcement officials say they are prepared for a positive festival for the second year in a row. The 2006 festival was marred by 80 underage drinking- and drug-related arrests, and a festivalgoer died from a drug overdose in 2005.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency, and officers with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control, the FBI, Kansas Highway Patrol and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will assist.

Unlike 2006, the highway patrol will not operate a vehicle-check lane on the South Lawrence Trafficway, and no hidden cameras will be used at the campgrounds, officials said.

Like last year, the check-in lanes to the park will expand to five instead of just one that caused a traffic jam in 2006.

Officers said they also have a plan in place to get the word out in case inclement weather approaches the festival.

“We had quite a good success last year, so we’re hoping that we’ll have the same success or better this year,” said Lt. Kari Wempe, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.