Update: Private security firms hedge on staffing BerkshireStock

Thursday September 13, 2012

LENOX -- The fate of the BerkshireStock outdoor rock festival at Eastover Resort was hanging in the balance Thursday afternoon as multiple efforts to hire private security forces for the event fell through.

The third agency sought for the assignment, Metropolitan Security based in Quincy, declined to sign a contract following negotiations on Wednesday, said Paul Perry, the firm's president and owner.

In addition, a planned two-man detail from Lee Police has been canceled. According to Lenox Police Chief Stephen O'Brien, he and Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis conferred and determined that the Eastover event may be "an unsafe environment for police. For any situation, two officers wouldn't be enough to handle what they're expecting."

"The security plan is lacking, as far as I can tell," said O'Brien on Thursday afternoon. Asked what his department might be facing, he said that "we would have to use mutual aid. I'm guessing 30 police officers would be needed but they should still have private security."

O'Brien acknowledged that the BerkshireStock event "would be problematical if they don't have a substantial security plan."

Buffis agreed.

"It would be inappropriate and unsafe to have a couple of officers," he said. "We would need much more of a presence."

Asked whether it would be safe to stage the festival, the Lee police chief said: "For the security of patrons, it would be prudent to have some trained personnel on site. For an event of this size, it would have been nice to have been in on the planning stages at the ground floor to come up with a plan that was doable and affordable."

As Perry explained it, Metropolitan Security was in contract negotiations with Eastover, but "after I educated myself on the size of the event, we suggested they hire state police patrols. We don't handle something like this, we're not comfortable with it and we think it's a law-enforcement matter."

Noting that BerkshireStock has styled itself as a miniature version of the Woodstock Rock Festival held in Bethel, N.Y., in 1969, Perry said that "when you look it up and realize what you're getting into, it becomes a liability factor. When Eastover first called in, they pitched it as some kind of beach party."

Earlier in the week, National Security Services declined to provide patrols, as did Shepherd Security in Springfield.

Although Resort co-owner Yingxing Wang and other employes have stated that the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department would be involved in providing security, Major Thomas Grady said on Thursday, "We have not been contacted by anybody connected with Eastover."

He explained that as a matter of protocol, requests for sheriff's details have to be funneled through the local police department first.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding security for the festival, managers and crews at the Eastover Resort were scrambling on Thursday to pull together final details and logistics for the planned, two-day outdoor music festival that would host about 40 local and regional bands on an outdoor stage and in the renovated Tally Ho Pub.

Overnight camping in tents or RVs were being encouraged for the two-day event with main-stage music from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, and additional bands in the Tally Ho Pub until 12:30 a.m. On Sunday, music is planned from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Gates to the resort at 430 East St. were scheduled to open at 8 a.m. both days. Two-day tickets at $50 include camping, but one-day admission for $35 either Saturday or Sunday also is being offered.

Turnout forecasts remain a moving target, but Eastover office manager Donna Zsoska, who calls herself a "Jill of all trades" at the resort, said the bands have sold or distributed free as many as 800 tickets to friends and family members.

Wang could not provide a tally reflecting total sales, but she is prepared for a crowd of at least 2,000 up to 4,000, especially with fair weather predicted and last-minute ticket purchases expected.

Although the resort has an all-alcohol license, only beer will be sold outdoors from two trucks provided by Budweiser, an event sponsor. Beer and wine also will be available for purchase at the Tally Ho pub. In addition to food sold by Eastover in the Heritage Room, outside vendors include That's a Wrap, Krispy Kone, Lucia's Latin Kitchen and Domino's Pizza, Zsofka said.

Landscapers and other contractors were scurrying around the expansive resort grounds on Thursday making final preparations. The rented outdoor stage provided by Image Productions of Worcester was to be installed on Friday. Overhead lighting for the parking lots also was the works, Project Manager Kenneth MacAlpine said, and at least 40 portable toilets are due on the grounds.

This article will be updated later online and in Friday's print edition of The Eagle.

To reach Clarence Fanto: cfanto@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6247. On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.


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