If 515 Alive Festival Returns, First Responders Hope for Improvements

DES MOINES, Iowa — Music lovers have worked hard to make festival season commonplace in Des Moines.

“We`ve been having a lot of them for many years and this is a festival-friendly city,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

But on August 17, the annual 515 Alive Music Festival, now at Water Works Park, appeared to have crossed a line with Des Moines police and fire departments, beginning with numbers from organizers that first responders were expected to staff for.  “They were hoping for 22,000, and I think they got 30,000 people,” said Des Moines Fire Department Lt. Chris Clement.

The two-day event caused logistic issues for law enforcement, which thieves took advantage of.  “We took close to 20 reports from people that their cell phones were stolen, and later that night West Des Moines police recovered nearly 60 phones in one traffic stop that we connected back to the festival,” Parizek said.

Water Works Park venue manager Tom Zmolek says the attendance was not an issue.  “It had been a growing festival and it was down a little this year and the numbers of attendees were right on target of what we estimated.”

Over the years, overdoses are becoming an issue police and fire are not surprised with.  Parizek said, “It certainly is something new to policing that we have to plan for something as odd as a hallucinogenic overdose.”  It’s required firefighters to even send a handful of concert goers to the hospital.  Clement said, “The ambulance transports were more alcohol and or drug related.  Most of them are usually drug related at this particular event.”

While a community should expect festivals to be loud, the locations where the noise traveled made it seem as if organizers paid no attention to Des Moines city noise ordinances. Parizek said, “There are going to be noise complaints.  Festivals are loud but complaints coming in from miles away? That`s a little too loud.”

Zmolek says it was more the type of noise. “515 Alive is very bass heavy and the music is bass heavy, and that`s where you are getting the discrepancy.”

The police department says they are at the table and willing work with 515 Alive organizers for next year`s event, but they want concert goers safe and the community happy.  “Planning for communications and locations of first aid tents and ambulances is maybe something looked at in the future and that we will scrutinize,” said Clement.

515 Alive organizers did not respond to requests for comment.