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Coachella 2012: One fest ends, one experiment begins

April 15, 2012 |  2:25 pm

The first of two Coachella Valley Music and Arts festivals will come to an end Sunday, but the experiment for some is just beginning. Local fire department officials said 20% of Coachella concertgoers will be attending both weekends of the three-day music extravaganza in Indio. Campers who may be attending both weekends will have to vacate the property on Monday.

Dan Talbot, battalion chief for the Riverside County Fire Department, is waiting to see whether those returning head home or hang out in the desert. He said his offices are monitoring social network traffic, and early indications are that some of those taking in both weekends will try to camp at nearby grounds, although some of the higher-elevation campsites just received snow this weekend.

Indio police spokesman Benjamin Guitron said, “Our business community is clearly thrilled” that some festivalgoers may be parking in the desert region for the week, but added, “This is going to be the new experiment for us. We will see.”

 COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

The country music festival Stagecoach will follow the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival later in the month, as it has in years past. So there has always been the possibility that audiences might stay for both, but it was unlikely because the crowds rarely intersect. Guitron acknowledged that Stagecoach would draw “the parents” of those attending Coachella.

Jessica Gonzales, 20, of Los Angeles, is attending both weekends of Coachella but will be going home in between. She said she took a more relaxed approach to the first weekend, knowing she can see the artists she missed next week.

Others, such as Justin McLaren, 20, of Orange County, said attending Coachella twice right now is just a pipe dream, as three-day passes alone top $300 once service fees are added in. “I would love to go to both weekends, if I had the money,” he said.

Guitron said his department has been relatively happy with the first weekend of Coachella, as no major incidents have been reported. Guitron said one guest was arrested Saturday for assault when he struck another concertgoer with “his hands and feet,” and a total of 60 arrests were tallied Saturday.

That number, however, is up from last year, when about 60 arrests covered the whole three-day weekend. Add in Friday’s 39 arrests and this year has seen a total of 99 arrests thus far. The vast majority are related to alcohol, and Guitron said less than 10% are related to other drugs.

Guitron didn’t want to speculate as to why Coachella 2012 has seen an uptake in alcohol-related arrests, but the lack of sweltering heat could be a factor, as festivalgoers aren’t concerned about dehydration.

He said Coachella's arrest numbers aren’t out of sync with other major happenings, as Indio hosts other large festivals such as tamale and date events. The latter, in particular, said Guitron, sees a high number of alcohol-related incidents.

“We’re pretty content,” Guitron said. “We can’t make everyone happy but we feel pretty good that we’re taking care of the majority. It’s not like everyone went to church. This is a party.”


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— Todd Martens

Photo: A couple share a moment on Saturday night on the polo grounds. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times