Electric Forest Festival expanding to 2 weekends in 2017

The Electric Forest Festival in Rothbury. (2011 file photo)

ROTHBURY, Mich. (WOOD) — One of West Michigan’s biggest music festivals is getting even bigger next summer.

Promoters announced Friday that the Electric Forest Festival will expand to two weekends in 2017.

The event drew 45,000 attendees last year — not including musicians or employees.

Capacity for each weekend next year will be reduced by 10 percent, but combined, the festival will no doubt bring tens of thousands more concert-goers to the area. It’s held at the Double JJ Ranch just down the road from the village of Rothbury in Oceana County, which has a population of just hundreds.

“Well we love it. We wish Electric Forest was every weekend here. The business people do,” Dan Kilinski told 24 Hour News 8.

Kilinski and his wife run a mom-and-pop BBQ stand in Rothbury. They made five to six times that of an average summer weekend during this year’s event. He’s thrilled to hear of the expansion.

“It brings a lot to the community. And that’s what we’re all about,” Kilinski said. “Would you rather not have the economy flourishing?”

But make no mistake — the festival expansion isn’t welcome news for everyone.

“It sucks,” local resident Michael Schiller told 24 Hour News 8.

The festival’s loud music often keeps Schiller and his wife up until the early morning hours. And they lives 7 miles away.

“I’m retired. When I worked, it was a pain in the butt because on some nights you don’t get any sleep,” Schiller said.

“It’s crazy. You can’t come to this town,” his wife Carol added.

The Electric Forest Festival has been criticized after a couple people at the event have died in years past. In June, a 22-year-old Lansing man died after suffering a medical emergency and in 2014 a 20-year-old Caledonia man died while volunteering.

But the Michigan State Police, which covers public safety for the festival, told 24 Hour News 8 they’re ready to handle the added crowds.

“You take a look at a city the size of the Electric Forest Festival for a weekend, and you look at our crime statistics. Take that and compare it to Grand Rapids or Muskegon for the same weekend. And it’s low,” 1st Lt. Jeffrey White told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.

White brings in troopers from all over the state to work the event. The extra manpower costs are covered by the festival. He said the two smaller weekends could be a good thing in many ways.

“One nice thing for us is it’ll be a little bit smaller traffic burden, albeit twice, but you know. That volume will go down a little bit for us, and I consider that a win,” White said.

White said it’s the promoters — not police — who perhaps face the biggest challenge with the expansion: cleaning up the mess for round two.

“It takes them nearly 10 days to get that area cleaned up. They’re going to have to turn that around in 56 hours,” White said.

No one representing the Electric Forest Festival were available to answer our questions on-camera Friday.

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