Arrests at Harmony Park go down

Published 10:19am Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The number of arrests were down at Harmony Park this past weekend in comparison to Memorial Day weekend, but opinions vary on the reasons why they were down.

Owner Jay Sullivan said he worked with the concert promoter to increase security and medical staff and to limit ticket sales.

He said what caused the multiple drug-related arrests at the Bella Music Fest on Memorial Day weekend was that the promoter slashed security and medical staff and oversold tickets without his knowledge. He said he is taking steps to ensure that doesn’t happen again by either working hand in hand with the promoters or else running security and medical himself.

“As a landowner being more involved with the promoter, we really gained some public safety,” Sullivan said.

Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler sees it differently. He said the reason arrests were down was because of wet weather. The Albert Lea area had 3 inches of rain Friday night, and more rain fell Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

“Weather played a huge part in reducing the amount of activity in the park,” the sheriff said.

Project Earth took place there Friday through Sunday. It offered musical acts along with places to explore things like yoga and drumming. Proceeds go to a nonprofit called Be the Change, which donates its funds to causes like a recycling center in Indonesia, a school in Nepal or the American Refugee Committee. Its donations are listed on its website.

Kindler said sheriff’s deputies maintained a strong presence at the venue. There was one arrest for a drug-related incident and one for disorderly conduct.

He said several concert-goers told deputies they had received a flier from Harmony Park that read Freeborn County was attempting to close the park.

He said they also told deputies “they had been personally asked to confine their drug use to their parked cars. It was not clear who had actually made the verbal request.”

Sullivan said neither of these are true.

He said Harmony Park has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs. He said rumors circulate at many shows.

“It’s not our policy to say you can go do drugs over there,” he said. “It’s absurd. This is starting to sound personal.”

As for the flier, he said there was one that had an image of a front page story about Harmony Park in the Tribune. It urged concert-goers to call commissioners.

Sullivan said he is going through growing pains like any other business and is working to make changes at the concert venue. He said Harmony Park is good for the local tourism economy and said area restaurants and hotels like the revenue.

The issue came before the Freeborn County commissioners last week. They discussed the possibility of altering Harmony Park’s conditional-use permit, and Sullivan invited the commissioners to visit the music-and-camping venue.

Freeborn County Commissioner Dan Belshan visited the venue Saturday. He said he rode through on a golf cart.

“There were a lot of families there, a lot of kids. It was pretty muddy,” he said.

He said he saw concert security and sheriff’s deputies interacting with many types of people.

Harmony Park is on the western shore of Geneva Lake.

A public hearing is slated for 9 a.m. Aug. 6 on whether to alter the venue’s conditional-use permit.