Multi-agency effort results in dozens of arrests during weekend music festival
By JIM LUTGENS
Heroin, LSD, methamphetamines, cocaine and, of course, marijuana.
Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler has seen it all, including overdoses, and more of it seemed to be happening at Harmony Park, a low-profile but high-traffic rural sanctuary located between Geneva and Clarks Grove.
So a crackdown was inevitable.
The result was dozens of arrests for drug violations last weekend. Members of the South Central Drug Task Force — including deputies from Waseca, Faribault, Steele and Freeborn County and several police departments — conducted the enforcement. Charges ranged from possession of drug paraphernalia to felony drug possession. Most of the arrests were the result of traffic stops, though some arrests were made at Harmony Park.
The extra enforcement was an effort to reduce illegal drug traffic and sales, according to Kindler. It continued throughout the weekend festival, Shangri-La, presented by WookieFoot.
“Over the course of the last couple years, we’ve had numerous reports of overdoses and drug trafficking in the park itself,” said Kindler. “We had been planning this quite a few weeks in advance.”
According to Kindler, Harmony Park is a peaceful place most of the time, hosting wedding anniversaries, class reunions and such. But at least four times a year it features bands with big followings that can attract 5,000 or more people. Neighbors for miles away have complained of noise, and the park has gained a reputation of its own, according to Kindler.
“It’s quite well known as a place to purchase drugs,” he said.
Harmony Park is owned by Jay Sullivan, who lives on the property he purchased several years ago.
“He developed it for events, especially weddings and class reunions,” said Kindler. “He’s not promoting these events for the drug culture.”
And it wasn’t Kindler’s intent to hurt the park financially.
“This was not intended to hurt his business,” said Kindler. “But we have to do something to curtail the drug trafficking.”
Kindler said he believes the property is leased to companies like WookieFoot for the music weekends.
So was the mission a success?
“It’s a success in the fact that we did take numerous amounts of illicit drugs off the street that were to be sold,” said Kindler. “We hope to make an impact, but in reality it was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of drugs brought into Harmony Park.”
Kindler said it’s something they’ll definitely consider in the future, but added such an enforcement effort does not come cheaply in terms of money and manpower.