As of Saturday, April 5, 2014
While nothing short of complete cancellation may please the opponents to the What the Festival, credit needs to be given to the event’s organizers for taking a step back from their original plan to play music until 2 a.m. because “our participants tend to be nocturnal.”
Instead, they agreed to have a midnight limit on amplified music built into their mass gathering permit.
Anyone who understands rural life knows that farmers can’t adjust their sleep schedules to accommodate a big, late-night party. Livestock, in particular, won’t wait to be fed while a farmer sleeps until noon.
The provision, at least in part spurred by a county commissioner warning that harsher regulation would be a guaranteed result of such unneighborly behavior, was a nod toward reality and neighborliness.
This voluntary provision is in addition to the stringent health, safety and fire protection requirements involved in obtaining a mass gathering permit.
According to county officials, What the Festival organizers have exceeded all of those requirements.
Unfortunately, fire continues to be an area of neighbor concerns, despite plans to have a full wildland fire-fighting crew on scene. That particular part of Wasco County is not protected by a rural fire district, said one area resident, so the only help available is from the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Organizers have moved their festival from August to June to allay some of those concerns, but the presence of thousands of largely urban people is naturally an area of concern.
Historically, folks who may not understand the hazards within the landscape are quite often the cause of dangerous wildland fires.
Even in June here, grasses turn dry and flammable. A wayward cigarette butt, an overheated car exhaust pipe or a random spark can lead to calamity.
Even with the precautions, vigilance will be critical to minimize the risks. So a quieter event doesn’t mean the neighbors will be able to sleep any easier until the last reveler leaves.
Neighbors should keep in mind, though, that this is one weekend out of 52 and county officials are trying to balance the benefit to the local economy — stores and service vendors — against the inconvenience to locals of a loud and somewhat unruly event.
State law specifically limits the number of such gatherings to two a year. So unless all land owners start hosting their own festivals, the disruption is substantially contained.
What the Festival organizers have done the neighborly thing by limiting noise after midnight and putting robust health and safety plans in place.
It may not meet with everyone’s approval, but the county commission’s permit approval is a reasonable decision that does a decent job of balancing the differing interests.