KINGWOOD, W.Va. – Masontown was home to the 2021 Resonance Music and Arts Festival, a three-day-long event, but it went awry, according to county officials.
There were several drug arrests, multiple overdoses and worst of all, the festival exceeded the 10,000 person limit, bringing nearly 20,000 people to town. And now, Preston County officials are trying to overhaul the county’s mass gathering ordinance. County Commissioner Samantha Stone, fellow commissioners, Preston Co. Sheriff’s Dept., Masontown VFD and other county officials met on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the county’s 911 Center.
“Today’s meeting was an after-action meeting so that we can come together and see what works and what does not work for our mass gathering ordinance,” Stone said.
About a dozen county officials shared how the festival impacted their departments. For example, the Sheriff’s Dept. said it spent more than $22,000 for overtime expenses, and that amount could’ve been much more if the county had not received free help from officers from other departments.
The cost could’ve easily have been more than $50,000-60,000 without the help.
Again, the biggest problem, Masontown VFD Fire Chief Dan Luzier said was the fact that there were almost 20,000 people at the three-day festival. In a county of a little more than 30,000 people, that is untenable, he said and Stone agreed.
“We really have to take a look at the number of people that are coming into the county,” Stone said. “Right now, with our resources, with our law enforcement, we really just have enough to keep our head above water. And so, anytime we bring people into the county for anything, it strains those resources. And so, we look at our police departments as critical infrastructure, our fire and EMS as critical infrastructure. And so, we just have to be certain that whenever we approve things to come in that we can still continue to serve the citizens in the county and that we’re covering our costs and not going in the hole.”
Luzier said roughly 200 people reported to the Resonance Festival’s Medical tent for everything ranging from bee stings to drug overdoses. Two people overdosed and needed Narcan, 14 were transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital and Preston Memorial Hospital. One man even had a heart attack.
All of this meant local first responders were busy taking care of festival attendants while county residents “waited” around to receive care.
All of this is now a thing of the past, but at the end of the after-action meeting, county officials decided to go back to their departments and figure out how much the Resonance festival cost their respective departments.
They were also tasked with figuring out how to avoid another incident where more people than anticipated show up.
“The consensus is that we need to get this done as soon as possible,” Stone said. “I believe my time on the Commission that we’ve just kind of talked about, we need to look at the mass gathering ordinance.”
These types of conversations have been “a long time coming”, Stone said. But because there hasn’t been a lot of large events in the county for many years, finding a solution was never a priority.
“It’s one of those things that kind of was on the back burner,” Stone said.
Now, the Resonance Festival has proven the county needs to have a mitigation strategy.
The festival operators told county officials at the start of the meeting their experience left “a bad taste” in their mouths. They added that they don’t “anticipate” coming back to the county.
Even if they do not come back, county officials said, there will be another festival or large gathering.
“Now that Preston County is looking at hosting other events, you know, different landowners are looking to have different venues on their property, we just need to make sure that we get this done as soon as possible so that we’re prepared,” Stone said. “So that they’re prepared, so when people do come, it’s a good experience, so that we’re protecting everyone here and protecting the people that are coming.”
County officials will regroup in about two weeks for another after-action meeting to share information and suggestions about the festival and the large gathering ordinance.
“This is on the fast track to getting everything going in the right direction,” Stone said.