Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Renee Ordway


BANGOR - With the 11th annual Hempstock festival getting under way in 
Starks today, festival organizer Don Christen said he's not paying much 
attention to warnings issued Wednesday by his primary nemesis, Somerset 
County District Attorney David Crook.

"The people of Starks have had a tremendous degree of tolerance over the 
years," Crook said. "Now we're going to try to regain control."

Last year about 5,000 festival-goers who celebrate the use of marijuana 
descended on the small farming community in western Maine. Christen said he 
expects about the same crowd this year.

This year everyone entering the festival will be greeted by a Maine State 
Police trooper who will hand out fliers warning attendees of the police 
roadblocks they will face when leaving the festival located at Harry 
Brown's farm on Route 43.

"WARNING, ROADBLOCKS. Do not drive under the influence. AVOID ARREST. When 
you leave you will be required to pass through roadblocks. Your condition 
to drive will be checked,'' the fliers warn.

Crook said the town of Starks has tried to rid the community of the massive 
four-day festival by adopting an ordinance requiring permits for mass 
gatherings, but Crook said Christen has "thumbed his nose" at the town.

"So they have met with Maine State Police, the Somerset County sheriff's 
office and my office to see what can be done," the county's top prosecutor 

Crook said the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Liquor 
Enforcement, and the state police are teaming up to provide a serious 
police presence at the festival.

"There will be police officers on site," he said. "Starks has tried to 
regulate this festival, but they feel they have been outgunned and 

Christen's response?

"David Crook doesn't know what the hell he's talking about," said the 

Christen accused Crook of trying to scare away potential festival attendees 
and said that if "David Crook wants to back the traffic up and harass the 
people that's up to him."

Hempstock started 11 years ago when about 750 people gathered at Brown's 
farm to listen to music and to support the legalization of marijuana.

Crook said the festival now is just a big party.

"One woman that called me called it the Dirtball Festival. These people in 
this little town can't sleep for four days because the music is so loud. 
They complain of people defecating on their front lawns. This is no longer 
a political festival, and it's not a medical marijuana issue," said Crook.

Last year there were complaints about parking and alcohol. About 40 
vehicles were towed away, three people were charged with drunken driving 
and another three were arrested for disorderly conduct, according to 
published reports.

Christen said Maine Vocals was a legitimate nonprofit organization 
registered with the state. He said he had a state temporary campground 
permit allowing up to 2,000 people to camp out on the property. He said 
Starks' new mass gathering ordinance did not apply to Hempstock because the 
festival was grandfathered.

"The town doesn't agree with me on that, but if they want to fight about it 
they can take us to court and a judge can decide," Christen stated 
Wednesday evening. "It certainly isn't up to David Crook to decide. This is 
a civil matter. David Crook is sworn to protect my rights and if he doesn't 
we'll take him to court, too."

Christen was forced to cancel another marijuana festival that was planned 
for Pownal in June. The property owner changed his mind about allowing the 
festival on his land after the Cumberland County district attorney informed 
him that his land could be seized and forfeited if certain crimes occurred 
on his property.

The festival in Starks begins at 4 p.m. today and runs through Sunday.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens