“An Upper and a Downer of a Weekend” — High Country Press reports on Gnarnia arrests

On Facebook, there were reports that 10 percent or more of the thousands who attended the Festival of Gnarnia in Boone were arrested on various drug and alcohol charges. High Country Press reported that the figure was closer to 2 percent or less. Here’s an excerpt:

Aug. 13, 2012. Atop Beech Mountain Resort this weekend during Festival of Gnarnia, more than 150 people were arrested and more than 300 citations for alcohol and drugs were issued, according to local law enforcement officials.

Though while the buzz ended for those select festival attendees, thousands of more people enjoyed the 100-plus high-quality and diverse bands and other performing arts showcases with no problems from law enforcement.

Some people – like Amy Morrison of the Beech Mountain Tourism Development Authority – feel that the small percentage of those busted gave the inaugural festival a bad reputation and that overall, the pros outweighed the cons. She estimated that 6,000 to 7,000 people attended the festival, and using that estimation and figures from law enforcement agencies, one to two percent of the festival goers were arrested – as opposed to the 10-percent rumor circulating around Facebook and other online forums.

“Overall, I think it was really exciting to have that many people on the ski resort at a time when we would actually have no one,” Morrison said.

In the aftermath of the festival, the homes and businesses are “still standing,” as one local merchant put it, and the mountain is clean from trash and litter, which initially concerned some of the locals.

While the economic impact of the festival won’t be known until September, the local merchants and lodging rental agencies noticed the financial benefits of the festival immediately. …

Still, the festival was both an upper and a downer based on what all transpired on the mountain from last Thursday to Sunday.

“You know, we still have mixed emotions,” Fred Pfohl, owner of Fred’s General Mercantile, said. “Business is wonderful, [but] I hate to see people get themselves in trouble with drugs. From a businessman’s standpoint, it was worth it to us.”

Pfohl said that people are going to question whether to have this event again in a place like Beech Mountain, even though no property was damaged and no violence occurred on the mountain during those three days. …
… As for the law enforcement agencies, it was quite a haul netting copious amounts of MDMA, LSD, DMT, marijuana, a variety of pills, ketamine, psychedelic mushrooms, cocaine, bath-salts, large nitrous oxide tanks and possibly even some PCP.

The confiscation amounts are still being tallied, but Brad Putnam, assistant special agent in charge with N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement, said one man arrested had 290 dosage units of MDMA, 700 hits of either LSD or liquid MDMA and 63 grams of cocaine.

The ALE, which had 25 officers present at different times during the event, worked in cooperation with Beech Mountain, Boone and Banner Elk police departments, the State Highway Patrol and Avery and Watauga sheriff’s departments. …

For the full article by Jesse Wood, go to hcpress.com.


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