QUINCY, Wash.—Friday is the opening day of the much anticipated Paradiso music festival. The event at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Quincy is known for its electronic music and carnival setting, but many remember last year’s event after one person died and dozens became ill from drug overdoses.
Local law enforcement is trying to prevent a repeat performance this year.
In the quiet agriculture community of Grant county, a carnival is coming to town that is like nothing they see all year.
Paradiso is an electronic dance music festival that costume clad concert goers come from all over to attend.
“It’s part of what drives me,” said 33-year-old concertgoer Tom Johnson. “It’s my passion, so coming to gather with other people who share that passion, it just builds on that.”
But outside of the spectacle of the venue and the music, Paradiso is also known for a drug scene that left one person dead and 70 people hospitalized last year.
“People started waking up, their partners and friends didn’t wake up,” remembered Assistant Chief Tony Leibelt of Grant County Fire District 3.
And it’s taxing resources. Leibelt says last year, 25 EMTs had to be called in to respond to this event alone.
“It will overload us really quick,” he said.
Live Nation declined to talk about security for the event. Instead, a spokesperson steered us to its website, which is clearly touting changes from last year.
According to the website’s video, the promoters hired a new health and safety director, who made changes.
“We’re going to have 24/7 emergency physicians on site to assist triage with in any patients that require it,” said Edwin Reyes, health and safety director for USC events.
As cars pulled into the campground, signs warned attendees that vehicles were subject to search. In addition, LiveNation has contracted with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office to have deputies on scene, both in uniform and undercover.
“They’ll be able to build intelligence on who is trafficking or selling illegal drugs, and then target those individuals and bring them into custody,” said sheriff’s spokesperson Kyle Foreman.
But the police and the concert goers agree it’s an individual’s responsibility to make smart decisions. Some concert goers say one problem is the younger crowd electronic dance music attracts. Those people tend to make more mistakes experimenting with drugs.
“It’s the same thing as a kid - never take candy from a stranger,” said 33-year-old Yasie Tamaddon.