Anyone who has ever attended a well-curated music festival like Tennessee’s Bonnaroo, Virginia’s LOCKN‘, or even Michigan’s Electric Forest, will tell you that events like those are more than just a weekend’s worth of concerts in the heat. There’s something special that happens to someone who’s willing to step out of their comfort zone and into a communal setting as powerful as one like Electric Forest, which returned to Rothbury, MI for its ninth year late last month.
Those who attended this year’s event likely noticed the presence of the Michigan State Police on-site, as they’re hired by event producers to help keep attendees safe and (somewhat) responsible. In a new op-ed penned by Col. Joe Gasper, it turns out that police officers working the event can undergo positive, life-changing experiences at festivals the same way that any other music fan would.
“As director of the Michigan State Police, I hope it’s something positive, but I’m realistic enough to know that for some people, that’s not the case,” Gasper starts in saying in his reflection on this year’s event. “The Electric Forest Festival, in the Village of Rothbury, is a shining example of police-community relations at its best. The unique partnership formed here happened mostly because all involved are willing to move outside their comfort zones, but more importantly, both groups respect each other.”
Gasper continues to explain:
“Dozens of troopers spend up to a week in the area, first getting a lay of the land and then walking the grounds to interact with attendees once the music festival begins. I’ll be the first to admit that this is an unlikely pairing of people, but it works in the most amazing of ways.
The MSP has become a fan favorite throughout the years. Take Tpr. Neil Holton, for example. Ten years ago, when he first volunteered for the detail, he would have been more likely to reference “The String Cheese Incident” as an occurrence in a police report rather than as a popular jam band now considered a regular at Electric Forest.
Like the group, Tpr. Holton is now a fixture there each summer. They call the 32-year police veteran, who is currently assigned to the Lansing Post, the “Kandi Cop.” If you’re not familiar with festival lingo, “Kandi” is a handmade bracelet that attendees trade to impart positivity and unity. For the first time this year, the MSP made and traded our own personalized ‘Kandi,’ roughly 600 pieces. It was awesome … If the Forest can teach us anything, it’s that we work better together, and the MSP will be working as hard as we can to bring more positivity to policing in the places you call home.”
As festival season continues throughout July and into August, remember to be kind to everyone out there, even those who opted to wear a uniform in all this heat!