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August 06, 2013 | 12:35 PM
GENOA CITY — While comparing Country Thunder to Spring Break, Police Chief Joe Balog said whenever the country music festival arrives, "we're like a miniature Fort Lauderdale."

More exactly, a section of village land east of Wild Rose Road and west of Twin Lakes Road, also known as Highways B and O, becomes a primary concern for the police department during Country Thunder, arguably the busiest time of the year for Genoa City police. The area, which is part of land the village annexed several years ago, is used for the event's general parking and campsites. "They expanded it to 1,700 campsites this year," Balog said.

He also said about 30,000 people a day attended this year's event, which took place July 24 to 27 and featured Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley.

Balog said Genoa City police issued 338 citations at Country Thunder. Compare that to the Dave Matthews Band concerts July 5 and 6 at Alpine Valley Music Theater, town of Lafayette.

The Walworth County Sheriff's Department recently reported that it issued 200 citations on those days. On July 5, about 19,000 people attended the DMB concert. About 28,000 attended the second show.

"We have 10 police officers," Balog said. "All but one worked during the duration of the event. We basically put everybody on 12-hour shifts."

So, of the nine who worked during Country Thunder, seven patrolled the festival grounds.

Is that enough?

"No," Balog said. "We made it work. In a perfect world I'd like to have a presence at our command post around the clock."

To patrol Country Thunder, Balog said they set up a post — a tent, basically, a focal point and an area where they can process and hold people.

He said thanks to extra help, the event transpired without major calamities.

"We're looking at how to structure and redeploy the assets that we have for next year, but this year, it worked out because we have a lot of part-time employees who were able to fill the (scheduling) gaps," Balog said.

As for Genoa City proper, Balog said there weren't too many calls, despite the BP gas station at 100 Elizabeth Lane seeing increased traffic.

He said one night, someone called from the Workmen's Benefit Fund subdivision on Highway H to complain about the noise. Balog said the caller believed a neighbor was having a party, playing loud music.

He said upon further investigation, it wasn't the neighbor this person could hear.

It was Country Thunder.

"The weather and conditions were just right so that she could hear the music," Balog said. "She was actually quite embarrassed … but the music was rattling her windows."

Dangerous dancing & underage drinking

The worst incident during Country Thunder, according to Balog, was when two men were jumping up and down while dancing on a woman's sport utility vehicle.

"They said they had her consent," Balog said. "But they didn't."

He said his officers were able to prevent the situation from getting out of hand, which is thanks to the department's primary focus during this year's Country Thunder.

"Our main purpose was to maintain high visibility," Balog said. He said they also employed a "visitor-oriented policing" philosophy. Officers "not only familiarized themselves with the event to point people in the right direction," but they would direct them to Genoa City businesses when asked by Country Thunder fans for places to go, Balog said.

But when they weren't being helpful, they were discouraging festival patrons from breaking the law.

The most common violation during Country Thunder?

Underage drinking, said Balog.

But this is where Country Thunder may differ from Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale.

"We would receive complaints about keeping kids in line from the 30-ish, older crowd at the event," Balog said. "We had our own cheering section."


Tags: Bloomfield-Genoa

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