Partiers take note: Police presence at Wakarusa Fest to double this year

Illegal drugs might not flow as freely this summer at the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival, scheduled for June 8-11 at Clinton State Park.

Event organizer Brett Mosiman said the police presence at the festival would be roughly doubled from last year as a way to cut down on drug dealing. For the first time, Kansas Highway Patrol troopers will be brought in to help the Douglas County Sheriff's Office patrol the campgrounds surrounding the festival.

"We've looked at our long-term success being tied to the fact that there aren't big, organized drug dealers that are able to run free at these events," Mosiman said. "There will be an adjustment from the fans. I'm sure that they're likely to recoil a bit if they see too many uniforms, in their eyes ... I trust that the officers will handle themselves very professionally, and that things will be fine."

Attendance for the festival is capped at 15,000. Last year, there were about 14,000 tickets sold, Mosiman said.

Mosiman said he expects to pay more than $100,000 total this year for private security guards and law enforcement officers, roughly double what he paid last year. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office will be paid about $53,316 this year, compared with $23,660 last year.

Between five and 19 sheriff's officers per shift will be working the festival this year, compared with three to 11 last year.

In addition, about 17 state troopers will be assigned to work the event, said Lt. John Eickhorn, a Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman.

"We will mainly be assigned to the campgrounds, where we'll be paired up with officials from the Douglas County Sheriff's department in making sure that everybody stays safe there," he said. "My advice would be for anybody attending, I would certainly leave any type of illegal contraband at home."

Last year, a 29-year-old Florida man died of a methadone and cocaine overdose at the festival. Also, Mosiman said there were reports that one of the police agencies impounded a car with a large amount of cash suspected to be illegal drug proceeds.

"I think that was a big wake-up call for them," Mosiman said. "I think they felt like they were understaffed last year on the enforcement end."

When asked if there were enough deputies at the festival last year, Douglas County Undersheriff Steve Hornberger said, "I don't know that I can answer that."

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