Firefly festival keeps alcohol enforcement agents busy

DOVER — Like bees to honey, Firefly Music Festival attendees often darted in and out of liquor stores as the nearby entertainment cranked up over the past couple days.

However, the underage ones probably exited the premises with an unclassified misdemeanor instead of spirits.

In what’s become an annual Firefly tradition, state alcohol and tobacco enforcement agents stayed busy issuing citations for anyone under 21 years old who entered a liquor store, whether they attempted to buy booze or not.

Before the music had even started, authorities cited 22 minors for 33 violations on Wednesday. Another 20 underage persons were charged with 28 offenses on Thursday.

By Friday, the number of offenders were expected to drop.

“By the third day, everyone has gotten what they’re going to get and are settling in,” said Lt. Kevin Jones, operations supervisor for the Delaware Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.

Most of offenses began with illegally entering a liquor store when not 21, which brings a $50 fine and associated costs and fees.

Underage consumption or possession of alcohol offenses were also involved, along with fake identification cards. A couple marijuana-related arrests were made, along with a suspect selling alcohol out of a cooler. Two charges involved providing alcohol to a minor.

According to Lt. Jones, 26 fraudulent ID cards were seized on Wednesday and Thursday.

Focused on three liquor stores on U.S. 13 near the Firefly grounds at the Woodlands close to Dover International Speedway, agents began surveillance operations at 2 p.m. Wednesday. They maintained a constant presence at Raceway Liquors and Lepore’s Liquor Mart and sporadically checked on Kent Liquors.

While business is great, Lt. Jones said liquor store owners don’t enjoy the hassle of monitoring would-be underage drinkers.

“They’re on top of it the best they can be,” he said.

Don’t even notice

A large sign at the entrance outside Raceway Liquors warns of age restrictions, often to no avail.

“We’ll sometime have kids walk right past an agent with a badge out in the midst of an investigation and they won’t even notice,” Lt. Jones said.

On the first day, arrestees came from Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ohio and Maryland. Thursday involved more of the same home states, indicating Firefly’s reach as a musical draw for the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

When it comes to spotting a minor breaking the law, Lt. Jones said, “You know it when you see it. It’s experience.

“If we think someone’s close, we will ask for an ID. When we card someone who is 25 or 26 they’re often actually happy about being asked.”

There’s a zero tolerance policy when a violation is detected.

“There’s no legitimate reason for anyone under 21 to go into a liquor store,” Lt. Jones said. “There are limited snack items there and they can’t purchase the alcohol.”

Curbing the opportunity for minors to drink is to their benefit, ticket or not.

“Obviously, young kids tend to drink to excess because they don’t have the life experience and the experience with drinking,” Lt. Jones said. “They may get caught up in the moment of the excitement around the event and get carried away with what they’re consuming.”

The busted kids rarely cause a fuss, Lt. Jones said, and accept the consequences of their aborted attempt at illegal purchase or entry.

“I’d say about 95 percent of those we deal with are cooperative,” he said. “Our guys don’t catch a lot of grief.”

There’s at least some good news for any young visitor cited for first offense underage consumption — they can apply for expunging the charge upon turning 21.

Illicit drug use

According to Levy Court Department of Safety Director Chief Colin Faulkner on Friday three festival goers were transported “to the hospital which were most likely adverse drug reactions to illicit drugs.”

Medical personnel also responded to “a lot of alcohol and heat-related events on site as well,” Mr. Faulkner said.

All things considered, Mr. Faulkner said, “it’s really been tame for the most part as I see it.

“Certainly alcohol and the heat play off each other but for the most part everyone we’ve seen has been within mostly regular levels, and very few have been incapacitated.

“There are of some ground level falls and some really bad sunburn, blistered feet…”

Staying hydrated with the proper fluids is the key to getting through the heat.

“People have to walk on a hot day, and when they walk, they sweat,” Mr. Faulkner said. “That’s when you need to drink a lot of water.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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