Kern County public safety departments are declaring the Lightning in a Bottle arts and music festival a success a week after the event wrapped up.
Although drugs were seized, arrests were made and one fire broke out, law enforcement officials in Kern County said on Tuesday that the numbers of infractions were relatively small for an event of that size.
“Our goal was to have a safe, successful event, and we feel that’s what happened,” said Kern County Sheriff’s Office Commander James Morrison.
At no point did attendance of Lightning in a Bottle exceed 18,000, the Sheriff’s Office said, a figure that seemingly came close to the 20,000 goal set by Do LaB, the company that ran the festival.
The county had set a limit of 25,000 patrons for Lightning in a Bottle, including vendors and other staff.
It is unclear how many of the 18,000 patrons were vendors or staff and how many had only bought tickets, although Do LaB said in the contract with the county that it would cap vendors and staff at 5,000.
Although rain delayed the opening of the festival on May 10 and briefly flooded the campgrounds of those who had already arrived, organizers said they thought the event went well.
“We’re extremely happy with the way our first LIB in Kern County turned out,” Do LaB Co-Owner Dede Flemming said in a statement to The Californian. “There was a lot of work involved by a lot of folks in the county and we feel it all paid off and are looking forward to having LIB at Buena Vista again next year.”
The county signed a one-year contract with Do LaB to host the festival at Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area, with the intention that the first year would be a test case for the event to potentially return in future years.
Now that the first year has been completed, public safety officials say they would welcome Lightning in a Bottle back to Kern County next year.
“We have a pretty good template for the next time,” Morrison said. “Definitely we’ll be ready for the next one.”
The Sheriff’s Office staffed the event with 349 shifts from May 8 to May 13. Do LaB paid the county $663,487 for fire, sheriff and search and rescue services for the event.
In addition, Do LaB paid the county $225,000 to lease the park.
A total of 21 arrests were made at the event, 15 related to drug charges.
Undercover officers patrolled the festival grounds, identifying individuals that were using illicit drugs in plain sight, and in some instances searches from alcohol offenses led to drug charges.
No marijuana was confiscated, although Morrison said officers could sometimes smell it on festival grounds.
“The statistics aren’t surprising to us,” he said, noting the confiscations were low for an event of that scale.
The Kern County Fire Department was able to quickly extinguish a fire that occurred on May 11 in a cargo trailer that resulted in a minor injury to a man.
The man was reportedly sleeping in a trailer while charging batteries for either a bike or a scooter and the batteries overheated, KCFD Battalion Chief Derek Tisinger said.
An on-site fire truck resulted in only limited damage to the trailer.
“If we would have responded with local equipment it would have been 20 to 25 minutes for a response,” he said.
Most attendees at Lightning in a Bottle camped at the festival grounds overnight, making the event the first 24-hour festival held in the county.
If it were to return, or if a new event came to the county, law enforcement officials said they would be better prepared.