After a close vote, Grant Township approved the mass gathering ordinance application for the Electric Forest music festival. Pictured here is the Sherwood Forest, which, for the first time, will be expanded at this year’s event.
GRANT TWP. – The Electric Forest music festival received the township board’s blessing last Tuesday night (Feb. 5) when it approved Madison House’s mass gathering ordinance application.
But, it was a close vote.
The board approved the township ordinance application by a 3-2 vote. Supporting the application was Supervisor Roger Schmidt, Clerk William Wagner and Trustee Joan Brooks. Opposing the application was Treasurer Joanne Heck and Trustee Jim Aebig.
It was a nondescript application. All Madison House included on the application were the dates and location of the popular third annual event. The mass gathering ordinance approval is required for all events planned for more than 10,000 people. It is estimated the event, which also has on site camping, could draw as many as 25,000 to 30,000 from across the United States, similar to last year. according to Grant Township Attorney Rodger Sweeting who was at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Madison House requested four days, June 27-30, and the location of Double JJ Resort, 5900 Water Road., Rothbury. The location is the same this year, but the dates are a week earlier than the previous two year when the festival included the July 4th holiday weekend.
The township’s approval of the application came after a required public hearing on the application that evening.
It’s what wasn’t on the application which caused most of the discussion among township residents, many of whom live near the resort, and the township board.
The complaints centered around the volume of the amplified music produced at the multiple outdoor stages, and the lateness of the loud music.
One neighbor said the music last year vibrated her house and she would like the direction of the sound changed or the volume lowered. Cyndi Winterstein, 678- Water Rd., also asked the township to not allow the hours of music to be extended.
The mass gathering ordinance has a 1 a.m. deadline for amplified music, but Sweeting said that is just an arbitrary time. The township can vote to extend the hours, and last year did so for as long as 3 a.m.
Schmidt said Madison House asked for the extended hours for safety reasons so all the stages don’t close at the same time, having all the festival goers returning to the campgrounds at the same time.
Laurie Fulljames, who lives on Winston Road near the festival site, said she is concerned that if the township approves extended hours for Electric Forest, that could also happen if additional mass gatherings occur.
Mark Terpstra of Roosevelt Road, suggested the township approve standards by which they will use in determining whether to approve extended hours. “The problem now is the township has no standards to base a vote to accept.” Terpstra said he has ideas for standards and would be willing to work with the township.
Other neighbors at the meeting, while acknowledging the music is loud late into the night, they said is only for four days out of the year. “It’s only four days,” said Delores Price who said she lives next to the festival site. “We can put up with it. I don’t see why it is so bad.”
While Madison House didn’t request an extension of the time limit in the application, Sweeting said the producer may make that request about a month before the festival.
Aebig, who voted against the application, said there were over 41 felony arrests at the festival last year, and he is concerned about a future tragedy. At the first ROTHBURY festival (2008), also produced by Madison House, which preceded the Electric Forest two festival goers died.
Sweeting backed the safety record of the festival.
“I would put it up against any city that size in West Michigan. It’s one of a few festivals in the state at which State Troopers are on the grounds. I think they are bringing back horses (mounted patrols) back this year.”
Brooks defended her vote for the festival.
“People attend this festival form all over the U.S. and think it’s one of the nicest festivals they’ve attended.”
Wagner, who made the motion to approve the application, said he was not in favor when the first festival was proposed, but he said it has proven itself.
“It’s been, in my opinion, a success,” he said. “It’s brought in a lot of money.” Wagner said the festival has donated money to area school music and green energy programs, has provided funds to the township for road improvements and has boosted the local economy.
Earlier on Tuesday, Electric Forest announced its 2013 artist line-up. Returning to the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury on June 27-30, live music pioneers The String Cheese Incident (three performances), Pretty Lights, Passion Pit, Empire of the Sun, Knife Party and dispatch will top the bill.
Also on the bill are Benny Benassi, Yeasayer, A-Trak, Grimes, Railroad Earth, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, FEMI KUTI & The Positive Force, Madeon, Headhunterz, Baauer, Danny Brown, Greensky Bluegrass and many more.
Electric Forest weekend tickets and GOOD LIFE VIP packages are available now at www.electricforestfestival.com (Loyalty tickets, early bird tickets and electric entry ticket price-levels are sold out).