SUMMER CAMP 2016 BLOG

When you think of summer camp, thoughts of canoeing, lakes, and hikes in the woods might spring to mind. There’s bug juice and summer romances, but here in central Illinois, summer camp also means something else.

Music.

And a whole lot of it. Dozens upon dozens of bands will descend upon Three Sisters Park, just south of Chillicothe on Route 29. The 400-acre park will turn into a minor city with thousands of music fans this May 27-29 for the annual Sumer Camp Music Festival, or as it’s known by its hashtag, #scamp16 or its Twitter handle @summercampfest.Check out this lineup:

  • Mudcrutch (featuring Tom Petty)
  • Umphrey’s McGee
  • The Roots
  • Ani DiFranco

And so many more. There are dozens of acts on several stages. For more information, surf to www.summercampfestival.com

It began in 2000 with a two-day festival.  The headliner was the jam band, moe, who had included Peoria as one of only three multiday stops. The band had been here before, drawn good crowds so the idea of having a two-day festival with other eclectic bands wasn’t so farfetched. The entire thing harkened back to the room of the jam band movement which was, of course, the Grateful Dead. Like with the dead, thousands of people did and continue to trek to the park from all over the country to hear dozens of bands on several stages. The festival has grown from two days to four. And often, the number of people rockin’ in the grass exceeds the total population of Chillicothe which has about 6,000.

Put it this way, in its first year, there were about 1,000 people. And most recently, it was estimated that more than 20,000 people attended with several arriving days before the music even started. In 2014, the event was named by Rolling Stone magazine as a must-see and one of the top 40 music festivals in the nation. In short, it’s a rockin’ time and really an event that is not to be missed.

Among the acts who have played there are The Roots (now the Tonight’s Show’s house band), George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Widespread Panic, Zac Brown Band, Blues Traveller, Rusted Root, moe and Tom Petty.

The festival was nearly derailed in 2007 when the park board that oversees Three Sisters Park voted initially to not allow Summer Camp back. It was in response to a massive number of drug arrests in 2006 as well as a petition that was signed by several area doctors calling for the end of camp. (Peoria Journal Star,  May 24, 2007).

But in the end, the color green is what matters – and no, we aren’t talking about that green. Area businesses which loved the thousands upon thousands of people who attend the annual event petitioned the city to give campers one more chance.  And concert promoters got the message. They donated a portion of the proceeds to the city of Chillicothe. They worked hard to tone down the image that Summer Camp had turned into the Midwest’s largest drug bazaar.

And unfortunately, drugs were a big part of the culture. In 2005 and 2006 more than 30 people were indicted on felony charges that included distribution and simple possession of cocaine, LSD, heroin, psychedelic mushrooms, hash, and others. In 2010, roughly three dozen people were indicted but police officials said that was “normal.” It appeared the mood towards campers and the festival in general had changed as is evident by the comments from Chillicothe’s police chief:

“We had 35 total arrests, which for that amount of people, isn’t unusual,” said Chillicothe Police Chief Steve Maurer. “The more people you have – and there were more people this year than ever before – you are going to have more arrests, and that did happen.” (Peoria Journal Star, June 3, 2010)

And that mood also caused a change in tactics for the police.Agents with the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group, the area’s undercover drug task force, patrol the area. In the early years, agents would talk about how dealers would hawk their wares like popcorn sellers at a ball game.

But as the police inundated the festival, tactics changed. Dealers decided that less was more and they began to do more of a soft sell. And the police responded. A MEG officer in 2010 told the Journal Star: “We didn’t see it being sold like it was in the past. I think they know that when they come in there, they take a huge chance of getting arrested.”

And police have decided to go after the dealer and not the simple user. The message is clear. “Don’t use it in the open. Be cool. Respect the event and all will be good.” Go against that and it’s possible that people will find themselves looking at serious felonies that could carry massive prison terms.

Among the charges are:

  • Simple possession of controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, LSD, psilocybin, methamphetamine and marijuana. Then there’s also the more rare drugs such as ketamine, various types of prescription drugs and other things. Depends upon how much you have, punishments can vary from a few days in the county jail or probation to up to 40 years without the possibility of probation for large amounts of LSD.
  • And as stated above, the police are looking for people who are selling. In Illinois, the sentence is higher for someone who is convicted of a delivery charge or possession with intent to deliver.
  • Other charges that have been levied over the years are aggravated battery for fighting, resisting a peace officer and assault.

But it is not just those who are in the festival that run the risk of being arrested. Merely getting to the Summer Camp event can be a chore. Ever seen those TV specials on small fish that swim together in massive schools and get picked off a few dozen at a time by various predators? That’s a good metaphor for what happens to music lovers. Police and sheriff’s deputies in every jurisdiction along the various routes to get to the park set up patrols and road blocks.

They have pulled people over for a cracked windshield and waited until a drug-sniffing dog was able to get to that area. Dozens of arrests in Woodford County, Peoria County, Marshall County, Putnam County and others are the result of traffic stop that lead to other, potentially more legally harmful things. A few cases have made their way to the appellate court which has thrown out convictions as flat-out violations of basic civil rights. But to the average person, the fear of a conviction can often lead to an ill-advised plea or a rush to judgment when, instead, that person needs someone who knows the game.

I know these things because I have been fighting for the rights of Summer Campers for years. When I was a partner in Miller & Pugh Law Offices, we were among the first to get involved in the Summer Camp cases. We strove to help those who were from out of town and who didn’t know how things were done here. We were among the first to advertise on the Web about what was happening and tried to warn people of what the police were doing and trying to head off potential problems before they arose.

And that’s what we have continued to do here at Miller Law Offices. All the years later, and with hundreds of hours in the courtroom spent fighting these cases. I have been to every county where someone has been arrested. I have handled the big drug cases and the small ones. I know what the prosecutors are looking for and I know how to get the best deal possible for you.

Simply put, there is no attorney in the area who has handled more Peoria County Summer Camp cases than I have. As a former Peoria County Prosecutor, there is no one in the area who understands how the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutes these cases better than I do. And there is no one in the area that fights for the rights of Campers more than I do.

Here’s the truth. You want someone who knows how to handle these things quickly and efficiently so you aren’t making several trips from potentially out of state for routine court appearances. You want someone who has a proven track record of looking at the evidence and convincing prosecutors to reduce charges into a more manageable situation.

And you want someone who has beaten the state at their own home and won cases.  With many Summer Campers in their young adulthood years, a felony on their record can be devastating. You don’t want that. It can damage a person’s ability to find a good job, to stay in school, to keep a scholarship or even a job. We have been very successful in the past at achieving dismissals of charges and reductions of charges at Miller Law Offices.

Miller Law Offices wants you to enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy the rays, the sun and the music. Jam out to the tunes and get your groove on and be safe. Don’t break any laws. Please, that is the first step. But if you do find yourself in trouble and if you do need legal help, consider us. There’s no one in the area that cares more about Summer Camp than Miller Law Offices and that’s what you want. A skilled attorney who understands you and your situation. We are here for you.