Trash and other debris blanket the Country Thunder campground Sunday in the Town of Randall, where the annual music festival was held for four days (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Authorities arrest one for battery to an officer

By Jason Arndt

At the closing of the Country Thunder Music Festival in Twin Lakes, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department reported more than 200 total citations and arrests, but saw a decrease in underage drinking offenses.

Compared to last year, when the Sheriff’s Department issued 192 underage drinking citations, there were 170 in 2018.

Previous media reports noted more than 400 underage drinking citations were issued, but the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department indicated the initial figures released were a “flowing number”, according to a clarification on July 24.

The annual music festival held July 19-22 also saw a 25-year-old Lockport, Ill. man arrested for felony battery to a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer and disorderly conduct on July 20.

In total, according to data released by the Sheriff’s Department, from July 19-22, officers had about 219 total citations and arrests.

Other citations issued were the following: disorderly conduct 10; obstructing 10; possession of marijuana 6; possession of drug paraphernalia 6; possession with intent to deliver Marijuana 1; fraud 9; warrants 2; criminal damage to property 2; trespassing 4.

The citations come after the Sheriff’s Department had between 80-90 officers patrolling the Country Thunder festival and campgrounds.

Preparation day
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth, who offered a tour of enforcement operations July 18, said his department set up a separate command post on the Town of Randall property.

The separate command post, he said, operates “just like a police department” consisting of its own dispatch center and a fleet of several types of vehicles, including four-wheel drive trucks, ATVS, golf carts and squad cars.

“This really is a police department, or a sheriff’s department, all into itself,” Beth said on July 18. “It is separate from everything else that we do, it is a separate dispatch center, it is separate calls.”

Typically, Beth said most of the calls are minor, including campers trespassing onto other campsites, a fender bender, or using a piece of property that does not belong to them.

However, he said more severe offenses happen, like the July 20 incident involving the battery of an officer.

“Every once in awhile, we will have a disturbance or an altercation, someone disagreeing on something,” said Beth.

In the July 20 incident, an officer found the Lockport urinating on the side of a port-a-potty, and when he approached the man, the offender allegedly became defiant and struck the officer.

“We have literally thousands of calls,” Beth said.

To manage the calls, the Sheriff’s Department adds officers from other Kenosha County municipalities along with both Walworth and Racine counties.

“We have many more personnel on the grounds, every year we keep adding personnel, we see where are busiest areas are,” Beth said. “The campgrounds are always one of our busiest areas.”

With the campgrounds as the busiest area, the Sheriff’s Department added more equipment to its arsenal this year, including two 360-degree tower camera towers to monitor the entire complex.

While the campgrounds are the busiest, Beth said less offenses typically happen on the festival grounds, where performers take the main stage.

“The festival grounds, we don’t have a lot of issues, we have, I would say more people with heat exhaustion or from drinking too much that we have to deal with here,” he said.

Underage drinking an issue
Annually, Beth said underage drinking citations always outnumber other offenses, which showed after 2018 results were revealed on Monday.

“One of our biggest issues is underage drinking, and we have some parents who are unaware,” said Beth, as he recalled an incident involving a 16-year-old Florida girl two years ago.

“We had a 16-year-old girl from Florida and she talked her mother into letting her come all the way up here from Florida without adult supervision.”

Traffic congestion
Along with underage drinking comes traffic problems, which the Sheriff’s Department assesses after each Country Thunder event in a debriefing session.

The traffic problems stem from two-lane highways surrounding the Country Thunder grounds.

“The roads here are not designed to handle a music festival with tens of thousands of people,” he said. “We go to Summerfest, they have interstates, these are two-lane roads in the country.”

This year, the Sheriff’s Department and Country Thunder officials created a traffic flow around the festival grounds to relieve some traffic congestion.

In previous years, Twin Lakes residents who lived nearby needed to secure a special parking pass to access their neighborhoods, but the new traffic flow eliminated the necessity.

“Our traffic patterns have changed so they don’t need their passes,” he said. “Rather than giving them passes, some of them had it, some of them didn’t, we just changed the traffic patterns.”

The Twin Lakes Police Department conducts most of the traffic enforcement outside the Country Thunder grounds.

Village Police Chief Adam Grosz more than doubles its officers on patrol, going from two to five or six during the event.

No taxpayer obligation
Annually, Country Thunder Music Festival pays an up-front fee of $230,000 to help local law enforcement offset expenses, like staff overtime hours and other operational costs.

On average, the Sheriff’s Department spends about $200,000, according to Beth.

“What wasn’t used goes back to Country Thunder,” he said. “There are no tax dollars being used here, they are all paid for by Country Thunder.”

“The current owners and management that are here have been absolutely wonderful to deal with,” Beth said on the Country Thunder personnel.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the July 27 print edition of the Twin Lakes Report.


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