Law Enforcement Says It's All Good for Music Festival's Return to W.Va.
It’s been four years since the All Good Music Festival has been in West Virginia. After spending almost a decade in Preston County, then two years in Ohio, and taking a hiatus last year, the festival comes back to the Mountain State to Jefferson County. It begins Thursday and ends Sunday, July 11.
While the festival is loved by many because of its line-up of big-name bands and relaxed atmosphere, it’s also developed a reputation for heavy traffic and drugs.
The All Good Music Festival and Camp Out has been around for almost two decades, with a fan base that’s grown tremendously since its inception.
Tim Walther, the founder and organizer, began the festival in Maryland in 1997, where it stayed for a few years. In 2000, it started moving around, and then in 2003, landed in Masontown, in Preston County, where it remained for eight years.
During its time in Preston, the festival grew from about 6,000 people in the beginning to around 23,000 in 2011. It became clear, however, the location wasn’t equipped for that many people. In the festival’s final year in Preston, a vehicle accident left one woman dead and two others injured.
All Good moved to Thornville, Ohio, the next year, where it stayed until 2013.
Last year, All Good founder Tim Walther announced the festival would take a yearlong break and search for a new home closer to its original base, in the Baltimore-D.C. area. He says some fans just weren’t willing to make the 370-mile trip to Thornville.
“You know, the aesthetics out there, the setting, wasn’t quite the magical setting that our fans were accustomed to, sitting on top of a mountain out in Preston County,” said Walther.
This year, the festival is at Berry Hill Farm at Summit Point, near Charles Town in Jefferson County.
Back in Preston County, Commissioner Dave Price remembers when the festival was in Masontown.
“This was located in an area that’s absolutely gorgeous," Price noted, "Problem is that the roads leading to that were very narrow, and it was a few miles, and that was a bottleneck for traffic, and the traffic backed up on the state highway toward Morgantown.”
Jefferson County Sheriff, Pete Dougherty says the new location in Jefferson County is well-suited for large volumes of people.
“Given the proximity of where we are and the roads that we have, we’re not in a position where it’s a one road in, one road out that was never designed to have significant amounts of traffic,” the sheriff explained.
Dougherty says several law enforcement agencies will be working overtime to deal with the festival.
“Between all of that effort, we believe it’ll be something in the neighborhood of 125 to 140 law enforcement people who will be doing it.”
Dougherty says taxpayers won’t have to pick up the tab for all the overtime -- the festival will. He also says an additional 200 internal security officers provided by the festival will be onsite. Some of them will be out of uniform to blend in.
Tim Walther says he’s happy the festival is returning to West Virginia, and says the Jefferson County location will provide much easier access for festival-goers than in Preston County.
“It’s a great location for emergency access, it’s a great location for people coming from all directions from south, north, northern Virginia, and D.C., from Baltimore, and Philadelphia, from Lancaster and south-central, Pa., Pittsburgh,” he noted.
Walther says U.S. Route 340 wraps around the site.
“So there’s plenty of access, and plenty of main thoroughfares to get people in and out. I don’t expect anybody to wait more than an hour to get in. I’d be kind of surprised if they waited for more than an hour.”
Another issue following the festival, however, is drug use. Preston County officials made hundreds of arrests during the festival’s time there, mostly for misdemeanor drug possession.
Sheriff Dougherty says he’s been working closely with county officials and the festival to keep as many drugs out as possible.
“We expect that almost everybody who comes to this event wants to simply come and have a good time, camp out and listen to the music that they want to hear," Dougherty said, "If they’re here for some other purpose, we encourage them to stay home or go somewhere else.”
He says he’s organized multiple K-9 units to work the festival.
“We will do lots of things, to do drug interdiction before people arrive on scene, and we will do a lot to make sure that anybody who does manage to get any drugs in onsite will be arrested and prosecuted.”
Walther says many fans miss the location in Preston County, but he hopes this new location in Jefferson will become a permanent space and provide that same magical getaway.