Gnarnia again on Beech Mtn. agenda
by Kellen Moore
For the town of Beech Mountain, it appears the Gnarnia music festival is turning into the song that never ends.
The three-day electronic and dance music festival, held in August at the Beech Mountain Resort, gained notoriety both for the tremendous economic boon it brought to the mountain and also for the flood of drug-related arrests made that weekend.
Now, the Beech Mountain Town Council has called a special meeting for Wednesday evening to hear more from the police, medical and law enforcement agencies involved with the festival.
At a Town Council meeting held shortly after the event in August, a chorus of community members shared their thoughts. Most heralded the profitable event and noted that the festival attendees were among the most courteous and personable they had met.
Others said the event turned Beech Mountain into a “police state” and brought undesirable crowds to the town.
Wednesday’s agenda includes an overview of the event from Mayor Rick Owen, Police Chief Jay Hefner, Fire Chief Bob Pudney and ALE Special Agent David Ashley.
“This is more from the viewpoint of the actual agencies performing the services,” Beech Mountain Town Manager Randy Feierabend said.
Pudney said the fire department has spent the last several weeks finalizing its report on the festival to present to the Town Council.
While he has not been asked to make a recommendation about hosting such festivals in the future, Pudney said he would need to see major changes in the event planning process to feel secure.
“I think the biggest problem we experienced was a lack of cooperation with the promoter in the planning process, and it forced us to make a lot of assumptions that may or may not have proved to be 100 percent accurate,” he said.
Festival organizers have not responded to messages seeking comment.
It’s not clear whether Wednesday’s meeting will include action in addition to the discussion. Town Council members have indicated that they may consider trying to change the Town Charter created in 1981, which provides Beech Mountain Resort with exemption from noise, zoning, parking and other ordinances.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Buckeye Recreation Center in Beech Mountain.