ROTHBURY, Mich.- The Electric Forest Music Festival drew more than 32,000 people to Oceana County last weekend, but packing in that many people for a multi-day festival didn’t come without its problems.
This year, 21-year-old Joseph Norris of Portage died at the festival and 16 others were arrested. Michigan State Police say they investigated 55 original complaints.
Each year state police officers are contracted to provide on-site law enforcement for the festival. This year, police say they responded or assisted EMS and security on numerous medical calls within the venue.
“For the most part the vast majority are empathetic and caring people; there is a subset within that culture where drug use is prevalent,” said Lt. Gary White.
Still, this year MSP says they saw a decrease in crime. In 2012, despite there being 7,000 fewer attendees at the festival, troopers investigated 67 complaints. A man also died last year from an apparent drug overdose.
Lt. White said that for an area where up to 40,000 people can be packed in, crime is “very, very low.” He said it’s lower at the festival than any city with a similar size and demographic.
Festival promoters pay all state police costs for the five days including overtime and travel costs, meaning there are no costs to taxpayers.
Portions of festival tickets go to Grant Township and the Village of Rothbury and setting up the elaborate Electric Forest creates a lot of local jobs.