Police chief to ECC council: Forefathers did not envision what 'adult dance' has become
Taking to task an event that is revered by some and dreaded by others, East Carbon City Police Chief Sam Leonard asked town officials to review the "adult dance" which follows the annual Community Daze celebration. While the evening gathering is well attended, its rowdy nature has become a liability and a danger in the eyes of the town's top law enforcement officer.
"I think we need to take a hard look as a city at the Community Daze Adult Dance," said Leonard, addressing the town council at Tuesday's session. "When our forefathers decided to have a dance years ago, I don't thing they envisioned what we now have. I think the city has a lot of liability as it's a city sponsored event."
According to Leonard, because the town pays for the entertainment and provides security, its liability is clear. The chief also stated that the town breaks three laws just by putting on the dance, as they allow young people out past curfew, they allow the park to stay open past 11 p.m. and allow drinking in a public park.
"Over the past few years that dance has turned into something that I just don't think is a good idea," he continued. "I don't think it's a positive thing for our community. Every one of our officers have to work and even with the help we get from the county, we have enforcement issues."
Leonard reported that officers are encouraged not to arrest those with warrants because they would then have to leave the area to transport the detainee to Price and the county jail, loosing an hour and a half in the process. In East Carbon, the adult dance typically begins following Saturday's rodeo and concludes at midnight. It unofficially ends the annual two day Community Daze celebration which takes place over the second weekend of July in East Carbon and Sunnyside.
The event has always been big in eastern Carbon County because of high school class reunions and what can only be described as a cultural mass homecoming. However, because of a gradual infusion of Rockabilly culture through local custom car builder Bo Huff, the event is now attended by many car and culture enthusiasts from all over the west coast. This influx coupled with several other factors has caused attendance to steadily climb, making Community Daze one of the biggest events in Carbon County. With increased attendance comes increased revelry.
"We need to have all hands on deck well into the night," said Leonard. "Juvenile drinking is definitely going on and we can't walk around and test everyone with a breathalyzer. And I just don't see the benefit for our city."
While the council nodded in agreement to many of Leonard's contentions, there were various issues taken with stopping the event.
"If we take it out of the park, am I going to have uncontrollable parties at everybody's home?" asked LaFontaine.
According to the chief, in that scenario at least the city is not liable. Additionally, he stated that those issues often arise following the dance anyway as most years the party does move to private locations following the dance.
Not allowing alcohol at the dance and even at the park on Saturday was discussed but struck down when the logistics of searching and policing where discussed.
"I have never been to that dance and have no interest in going," said city council member David Maggio. "However, there are a number of people who have always gone and always enjoyed themselves and never caused any problems."
Maggio then asked if there was any way to let the event stand while ensuring community safety, by letting everyone know that it's not going to be the "same old drunken brouhaha" Leonard referred to.
"We're going to have a dance but we're not going to allow you to go down there and have your teenage kids drinking with marijuana floating in the wind, You're not going to turn this into an annual fiasco where four or five people ruin it for everyone."
According to Leonard, while the day event in the park may be a few rowdy individuals joined with mostly law abiding people, the dance has become the opposite with four or five acting reasonably amid a sea of debauchery.
"I hold my breath every year," Leonard continued. "Maybe I'm a pessimistic person and I always think of what bad can happen and I see so many bad things during that dance. And every year, I wake up the next morning and say 'Thank you Lord.' I'm not here to say that we shouldn't have it but I am here to say we need to re-think it."
Leonard took additional exception to the fact that the party is no longer contained to the pavilion. Patrons and young people have spread out well into the parking lot as well as the ball fields that border the park.
"You know people start drinking at the parade," said LaFontaine. That's 9 a.m., they drink all day so by the time the dance rolls around things get obnoxious."
Leonard reiterated that the event in the park on Saturday rarely has any issues. In fact, there is usually only one officer on duty during the day as the rest are getting ready for the evening.
"My problem is this, if we enforce the event like we should there won't be any cops there," said the chief. "I just don't see how our city benefits from the dance at all anymore."
The council ultimately decided to further discuss the issue but assured Leonard that changed would be forth coming concerning this year's event.