Music FestivalsNews

Car Fire, Law Enforcement Incidents Reported At Sol Fest 2024

Sol Fest brought top-tier DJs and thousands of festivalgoers to Ponce de Leon, Florida’s Vortex Spring campground last weekend. However, the festival’s third edition was also marked by emergencies, arrests, and complaints relating to law enforcement.

Early Sunday morning, a fire broke out in Sol Fest’s general admission campground, engulfing three cars and damaging another adjacent vehicle. The Festive Owl reports no injuries were sustained related to the blaze, and early indications suggest that the fire was accidental, likely sparked in the process of charging a battery.

Eyewitness reports suggest it took roughly 35 minutes for police and fire officials to arrive and another 40 minutes to extinguish the fire.

As Sol Fest attendees return home, many have also publicly alleged security issues, an overbearing police presence, and excessive search and seizure tactics from local law enforcement at the festival. 

In the days since Sol Fest began on Wednesday, May 1, the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office has published Facebook posts with the mug shots, full names and charges of 26 detainees who were arrested at the festival site on charges of drug possession, some for “possession of THC vape,” “gummies” or “marijuana” alone.

According to the office, a Vortex Spring volunteer attacked a deputy, attempted to take his gun, and bit the back of his head in an ensuing altercation. The Holmes County Sheriff’s office alleged that the man identified in a graphic Facebook post was “under the influences of multiple substances.”

In mid-April, during a Holmes County Commissioners meeting, Holmes County Sheriff John Tate said he had met with festival organizers “about a year or so ago” but hadn’t been officially notified until two months before the festival, according to the Holmes County Advertiser.

Before the festival, Sol Fest owner and Holmes County resident Alexus Williams told the Holmes County Advertiser that the event had received opposition from the local community and law enforcement.

“We thought we had a great relationship with the sheriff,” Williams said. “The community is against it. The big dogs start talking with everyone else and they start raising red flags.”

In a video interview with Panama City’s WJHG 7 news station, Sol Fest volunteer Austin Boughner said, “I see a lot of collectives of police officers at festivals that are smiling and having fun and they’re here to actually make sure people are safe, not hunting us, and I feel like a lot of people in the festival felt they were being hunted instead of protected.”

Sol Fest acknowledged the incidents in an Instagram post yesterday, writing, “We are aware of the various issues that arose throughout the event. And will be sending out a Sol Fest guest experience survey this week to collect attendee feedback.”

The festival has not confirmed a 2025 return at the time of writing.

 

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A post shared by Sol Fest (@solfestfl)

Featured image credit: The Festive Owl.

Written by
Peter Volpe

Journalism student at The Ohio State University with a passion for culture and fat basslines.

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