Pubdate: Mon, 21 Aug 2000
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2000, Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Judy Harrison


STARKS -- Ten years ago, 750 people gathered at Harry Brown's farm on Route 
43 to listen to music, support the legalization of marijuana and, by all 
accounts, pass around a few joints. Hempstock turned 10 this weekend and 
nearly 5,000 people showed up to celebrate the milestone.

Back this year were the same problems with parking and alcohol that have 
plagued the event since attendance swelled to 10,000 in 1993. State Trooper 
Aaron Hayden said about 40 vehicles were towed off Route 43, three people 
were charged with drunken driving, and another three arrested for 
disorderly conduct.

In addition, a few individuals were picked up on outstanding warrants and a 
couple of minors were charged with possession of alcohol, according to 
Hayden, who spent nearly 36 hours on duty over the weekend. As of early 
Sunday afternoon, no one had been arrested for possession of marijuana or 
any other drugs, he said.

"This year's event was similar to last year's, but it was a smaller crowd," 
the trooper observed. "We definitely had more cars last year. The majority 
of the complaints were about the traffic. Nobody made a noise complaint."

What police said is a "safety issue," organizers called harassment. Don 
Christen, founder of Maine Vocals, who was honored this year for his decade 
of planning the event, successfully argued that cars parked entirely off 
the road were legally parked. Vehicles that were parked partially on the 
road were towed.

Adam Libby of Norridgewock has helped with event security since Hempstock's 
inception. Because it is illegal for attendees to consume alcohol at such 
mass gatherings, he and other volunteers, ranging in age from teen-agers to 
grandparents, poured out between 400 and 500 cans and bottles of alcohol -- 
mostly beer -- during the four-day festival, according to Libby. They also 
filled the back of a pickup truck with alcohol taken from attendees as they 
entered the site and stored it off the premises.

Libby said his 17-year-old son was issued a summons for possession of 
alcohol as a minor because he was emptying beer taken from festival-goers. 
State police refused to comment on the incident because it involved a minor.

Hempstock's relations with the town were stormy a few years ago but have 
evolved into something of an institution in this hilly farming community. 
In 1995, voters tried to block the festival by banning mass gatherings. 
This year, neighbors offered parking, camping spots and firewood for sale.

Whatever tensions occurred at the perimeter of Brown's farm, they did not 
make it up the road and invade the festival itself. Food vendors sold 
hamburgers, hot dogs and fried dough just as they do at many other events 
every summer around the state.

Bernie Colangeli Jr. of Lakeport, N.H., takes his customized T-shirt 
business on the road to 14 state fairs, fishing derbies and Hempstock-type 
festivals a year. He has attended the Starks event since 1995 and declared 
it "just like all the rest of the festivals, but mellower."

Wade and Judy Grant had not intended to attend Hempstock X. The Gouldsboro 
couple were headed farther south to attend a motorcycle rally, but decided 
to check out the music at the festival when the wind picked up Friday 
night. Luckily they had their camping gear -- a tent, king-size inflatable 
air mattress, pillows, fold-up cooler, chairs and clean clothes -- packed 
on their bike.

"We came for the bands," said Wade Grant. "We outgrew the drugs, alcohol 
and all that stuff a long time ago. I think people should be able to smoke 
[marijuana] at home, though. It shouldn't be illegal."

Nineteen-year-old Eric Becker of Bangor spent his third weekend at 
Hempstock. He also attended Woodstock and the Phish Lemonwheel Tour in 
Limestone. He and his brother Stephen, 18, were dropped off at the event by 
a friend Friday night, confident they would be able to catch a ride home 
Sunday. His optimism paid off.

"This is the last chance of the summer to get away and relax," said Eric 
Becker, who described marijuana being sold, traded, shared and smoked 
openly over the weekend. "Everybody's nice and friendly and stuff. We got 
to meet new people, and a couple of the bands were really good."

That's just about how Christen described the event last week.

"People keep coming to hear great music and because they want to see 
changes in the laws. We provide a pretty good show like any fair," he said 
of the event on Bijah Hill that is well on its way to becoming a summer 
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens