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State Patrol stops over 1,000 cars during WE Fest

As usual, WE Fest kept law enforcement officers busy this year.

Citations issued by the Becker County Sheriff's Office at WE Fest include 23 minor consumption, seven disorderly conduct, three fleeing a peace officer, one trespassing and one theft of services.

There were 15 people booked into jail from WE Fest, said Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander.

"We responded to typical complaints of minor consuming, disorderly conduct and theft," he said. "As in the past, we worked well with WE Fest security on site along with the State Patrol, and I feel things went well."

The sheriff's office maintains a presence throughout the festival, he added.

"We patrol the campgrounds at WE Fest and respond to complaints in the campgrounds, along with patrolling township roads and County Road 22," which becomes a one-way for the event, Glander said.

Essentia Health St. Mary's Emergency Department in Detroit Lakes saw about 50 patients over the course of WE Fest. Patients were treated for a variety of reasons such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, high blood alcohol levels, injuries to extremities, and lacerations, said Tara Ekren, media relations specialist for Essentia.

The Minnesota State Patrol stopped 1,377 cars during WE Fest, and issued 11 DWIs, which is about average, said Captain Brian Cheney.

"Our big goal is no serious or fatal crashes," he said. "We didn't have that, so that's good," he said.

As usual, extra troopers came in from out of the district during the week to work during WE Fest, Cheney said. "They show their presence in the pretty aggressive patrolling they do," he added.

Those out-of-district troopers work long hours, sometimes 14-hour-days, and stay in motels between Moorhead and Hawley, said Cheney.

DWI arrests have been on the decline at WE Fest for the past 15 years, he continued. "That's a good thing. People are making choices, using shuttle buses or sober drivers, and just our presence is a deterrent."

Prior to that, up to 60 DWI arrests were common during WE Fest, he said. "Now we're almost into single digits — that's a win," he added.

Local troopers also direct traffic at the Soo Pass Ranch's West Gate and Highway 59. And the State Patrol brings in other tools — at one point a State Patrol airplane helped nail speeders on Highway 10, and four K9 units were on hand this year to look for narcotics during WE Fest, Cheney said.

"We did have some narcotics arrests, from small amounts of marijuana to heroin and methamphetamine," he said. "When you talk driving under the influence, everybody thinks alcohol, but these days we're just as busy with other things (drugs)," he added.

All in all, Cheney said, "it was a good event — everybody came in, had fun, and stayed safe."

Although attendance is clearly down from its heyday, WE Fest didn't release attendance numbers for this year's festival.

McKay Murphy, Townsquare Media senior marketing manager for live events, declined phone interviews. But she did respond to several questions via email.

She said venders are no longer allowed to camp near their booths for safety reasons.

"This comes down to one thing, safety," she wrote. "If we need to get emergency personnel into that area it can't be blocked by campers."

Asked if it were Is it true that WE Fest wants to get its attendance numbers down to about 25,000, like some of its other concerts, for better crowd manageability, she replied: "No. Several of our music festivals around the country have attendance numbers well over 25,000. We hope to make WE Fest the largest festival in the country!"

As for when campers were allowed to enter the campgrounds, nothing has changed, there, she said

"As always, VIP campers that purchased an Early Arrival Camping Pass were able to start loading in Saturday and General Admission Campers are able to start loading in Tuesday," she wrote.

On Friday night, the festival announced that Chris Stapleton will be one of three headliners for the 2019 festival, which returns to Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes on Aug. 1-3, 2019.

WE Fest has been one of the leading country music festivals in the nation since its inception in 1983. It is a two-time nominee for the Country Music Association's prestigious Best Special Event award and was nominated as Festival of the Year in 2018 by the Academy of Country Music.

The lineup for this year's festival included headliners Jason Aldean, Carrie

Underwood, and Florida Georgia Line, as well as Vince Gill, Chris Young, Justin Moore, Dan + Shay, Josh Turner, Chris Janson, Tyler Farr, Carly Pearce, Rodney Atkins, Devin Dawson, The Cadillac Three, and Ashley McBryde.

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