Nelsonville Music Festival (May 31-June 3) has instituted additional security measures this year, festival organizers said in two emails to ticketholders last Thursday.
The new measures include a restriction on most bags that people can bring inside the festival grounds. They must be clear (plastic, vinyl or PVC), although non-clear fannypacks and non-clear small handbags (no larger than 7 inches in any direction) are still allowed.
The festival in the emails emphasized that the changes are being made for everyone’s “safety and security,” and noted that “as always, we are ONLY looking for weapons and/or dangerous objects (emphasis theirs).”
The festival’s head organizer, Tim Peacock, executive director for the non-profit Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, said Thursday that the new measures were developed after a recommendation from a safety team of local police agencies headed by the Hocking College Police Department (NMF occurs at Robbins Crossing on Hocking College’s campus).
“It wasn’t mandated in writing, but it was strongly suggested that we do this,” Peacock said.
The emails note that the clear bags being brought inside the festival must be 13 by 17 inches in size or smaller, although that’s normally the case with the festival.
Peacock said that the clear-bag policy is becoming an “industry standard” at sporting events and entertainment events across the country. With recent tragedies like the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas last year that left 58 people dead and 851 people injured, festival organizers and large-event venues have started implementing similar measures.
“It’s just the reality (of the situation), although I wish it was not the reality,” Peacock said.
He added that there may also be police and security professionals performing random searches of bags as people head into the campgrounds for the festival.
Hocking College spokesperson Tim Brunicardi said that the policy is consistent with a recommendation for “all such events” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He added that no actual threat of violence led to the policy suggestion; he said Hocking would rather be “proactive than reactive.”
“Hocking College is committed to providing a safe environment for all who visit, work or live on our campus,” Brunicardi said. “The HCPD has implemented the clear-bag policy… much like many professional, collegiate sports and music venues have across the country… as an added measure of safety for those attending the festival. We want to make sure that all attendees for this event have a safe and enjoyable experience while on our campus.”
Brunicardi added that a 30-foot-tall “mobile observational structure” called the “SkyWatch Tower” will be present at this year’s NMF. The tower is provided by Ohio Homeland Security (a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety) at no cost to the law-enforcement agencies involved with security for the festival.
The music festival, in its emails Thursday, noted that very little is changing with its security measures outside of the clear plastic bag requirement.
“It is impossible to list all allowable items, so bear with us there,” one of the emails reads. “You can bring in things that you always have been allowed to bring such as lawn chairs, jackets, blankets, tarps, notebooks, etc. but if they do go into a bag, it must be a clear bag of the allowable size. No bags for camping chairs will be allowed.”
In a follow-up email to festival-goers that Peacock provided to The NEWS Sunday, he explained that reusable water bottles are allowed in as long as they are empty, along with one factory-sealed water bottle, as well as Camelbacks and other “hydration bags” so long as they are empty of liquid when arriving (the festival has free water-filling stations on-site). Strollers, folding chairs and lawn chairs are all allowed as usual, as well as blankets and tarps (although these cannot come in their own carrying bags).
Small non-clear diaper bags (under 7 inches in any dimension) will be allowed.
Outside food won’t be allowed inside the festival as usual, although NMF has always “allowed food or snacks for people or their children with special dietary restrictions or for babies and small children,” the email reads.
Editor’s note: The NEWS plans to run an interview with NMF organizers in Thursday’s issue, mainly covering the entertainment aspects of this long-running local festival.