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Permit for music festival in Rainier area denied by county

County officials say event was disguised as wedding celebration

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Ericka Farlow addresses Columbia County Commissioners Wednesday, July 8, to voice support for a music festival on private property in Rainier. Commissioners later denied a permit for the event, saying it was misrepresented by organizers.

A permit for what Columbia County officials are calling a rave near Rainier was denied Wednesday, July 8, but organizers say the show will go on in a different location.

Field of Dreams, an electronic music festival planned for July 17 to July 18 on more than 100 acres of private property south of Rainier, was pitched to Columbia County's Land Development Services as a wedding celebration and fundraiser with overnight camping, but Columbia County commissioners said Wednesday morning that they felt duped by the applicants.

“The application indicates this is a wedding celebration, but the website promotion indicates this is a music festival with 40 or more rock bands,” Todd Dugdale, Columbia County's Land Use Development director, said Wednesday.

A mass gathering permit was unanimously denied by the three-member commission Wednesday.

Commissioners cited problems with past dance music festivals at the same site, along with concerns over excessive noise, lack of adequate security and fire danger amid extremely dry conditions. They also said the organizers weren't truthful with the county about the event.

The permit application states no food vendors or alcohol will be at the event, but a Field of Dreams Facebook event page indicates food will be sold and additional vendors are being solicited.

Nicholas Goodroad spoke in support of the event, saying he was slated to perform there.

“I grew up in the Midwest around the idea of raves and watching that blossom … and kind of morph and change over the years,” Goodroad said. "It's not the same monster that you see in old 20/20 reports and on the news, where kids are in a warehouse. ... I don't think it's wrong for people to want to gather with music outdoors.”

Danny Petrella and Frank Upham applied for the permit June 8.

The form submitted to the county listed an estimated attendance of up to 1,200 people, but 11,000 have been invited through social media and more than 1,400 have indicated their intent to attend through the event page, county commissioners noted.

“We came to the county in good faith to put this event on above board,” Upham said. “We're not trying to break any laws or create any hardship.”

Upham told the commissioners that he and fellow organizers had plans for security, a first aid station and a designated parking area with specific entry and exit points, to prevent heavy traffic on local roads. “We were trying to find out what the concerns would be before anything got away from us,” he added. Commissioners chastised Upland for not submitting the permit application 60 days ahead of the event.

Even after fire mitigation plans were discussed and commissioners heard from the property owner, Torey Lee Gregory, who said noise curfews would be adhered to, commissioners were not convinced.

“I'm simply not impressed,” Commissioner Tony Hyde said. “I'm vehemently opposed to this application.”

Even without a permit, the property can legally host almost 500 people, Dugdale said.

Outdoor mass gatherings of 500 or more people require a permit from the county, with approval from Columbia River Fire & Rescue and the Sheriff's Office, Dugdale said.

Neither the fire chief nor the county sheriff approved the permit.

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Columbia River Fire & Rescue Chief Jay Tappan (left) and Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson tell Columbia County commissioners Wednesday, July 8 why they don't recommend granting a permit for a weekend music festival that was pitched to the county as a wedding celebration.

"The application that was forwarded to me was disingenuous," Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said Tuesday. "There was no mention of security. I had to go online to find out more about it. We've had a history at that location of lack of cooperation with legitimate law enforcement concerns."

If an event operates illegally, fines of up to $10,000 per person can be levied against anyone responsible for holding, staging or sponsoring the event, Robin McIntyre, an attorney for the county said.

Following Wednesday's permit denial, event volunteers indicated they planned to continue with the festival, but would likely limit attendance to remain legal without a permit. Others associated with the event's online promotion told attendees the still-undisclosed location had changed by Wednesday evening.

Tickets range in price from $80 to $180, according to the event page. Organizers estimate less than 200 tickets have been sold online so far.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the event's location.