Law enforcement concerned as upcoming UpNorth festival moves location

Photo: UpNorth Music and Art Festival

MANISTEE COUNTY, Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) — Law enforcement is expressing their concerns as a festival that could bring in nearly 5,000 people to Northern Michigan has yet to announce an official venue.

The UpNorth Music and Art Festival will take place the weekend of August 18. It was originally set to be located at Twisted Trails campground in Copemish, Michigan. However, organizers say plans have changed and they need a new location.

Retired Manistee County Sheriff, Dale Kowalkowski says last year’s festival took a toll on the county. Kowalkowski retired in January 2017 but was in office during the 2016 UpNorth event. He says the event cost his department more than $6,000 dollars in personnel costs.

“It created a lot of headaches for law enforcement and medical, there were numerous calls for overdoses from drugs,” Kowalkowski explained.

The former sheriff says last year during the weekend of the event, his deputies made nearly 150 traffic stops, more than a dozen felony arrests and responded to more than 40 medical calls.

“It overtaxes all the people that we have and that’s why we required them to have some type of security force in place,” Kowalkowski said.

The 2016 event was held at Twisted Trails campground. To try to eliminate any future issues, Cleon Township in Copemish put a mass crowd ordinance in place to address the issue of when bands can and cannot play as well as providing security and having an evacuation plan.

However, festival planners say they were not able to meet those demands within the two-week deadline they were given by the township to comply. Although, law enforcement officials argue they had a year to plan.

The manager of Twisted Trails has backed out of the plan, forcing event planners to find a new venue. That’s when they looked at a campground in Benzie County in Almira Township.

Twisted Trails posted to their Facebook page Friday night:

We are getting a few people asking about the UpNorth Music Festival, we are not hosting the music festival for 2017.
There are a lot of rumors flying about why the music festival is not being hosted on our property. Without going into extreme detail we hold many events on our property and are required to follow all local state and federal laws when doing so. We refused to come to a final agreement due to discussions on how these regulations must be followed.
Our understanding is a location will be announced by UpNorth on Monday so stay tuned to their website.

According to a statement from UpNorth event planners on Friday afternoon:

Twisted Trails and UpNorth didn't share the same vision and the festival was not able to meet the changing demands two weeks prior to the opening. With patrons safety and best interests in mind, UpNorth is now initiating their backup plan and are moving the festival.

“It is definitely a safety concern and trying to come to Benzie County at the last minute it’s just a recipe for disaster,” Benzie County Sheriff, Ted Schendel.

The sheriff says the Almira Township supervisor said “no” to allowing the event on such short notice.

“If they were to do this in a respectable manner, and have all the people in place, then I wouldn’t be opposed to them going to Benzie County, I want people to have a good time,” Sheriff Schendel said.

While there are many questions on where the event will be held, a post on the event Facebook page Friday reassured fans that the festival is still on and to hang tight for the final announcement.

“We really need to police it better and it would take a whole year of planning and if they didn’t get their plan in place they would need to work on that for next year if they want to come back,” Kowalkowski said.

Organizers say they are now finalizing plans with property owners where the event will take place but they have not released that location.

According to event coordinators, the event generated nearly $76,000 to the Copemish economy last year.

"UpNorth feels at home in northern Michigan and an attachment to the community here. A few of the festival founders are from the area and local communities."

Right now more than 2,000 tickets have been sold. Tickets are still for sale.

A meeting will be held in Cleon Township Monday at 6 PM to discuss the festival.

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