The annual “WE Fest” country music festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota was marred by a triple stabbing in a campsite adjacent to the festival early Thursday (8-7) morning. The three-day music festival at the Soo Pass Ranch began Wednesday and featured headliners such as Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, and The Zac Brown Band.
According to the Becker County Sheriff’s Department, at 1:45 AM Thursday morning, a heavily-intoxicated concert goer at the Hilltop Campground across the road from WE Fest began shocking people with a handheld Taser. When the man was confronted by people in the campground, he brandished a knife, stabbing three men from Canada who were trying to stop him. All three men were transported to a local hospital via ambulance.
The accused stabber is 32-year-old Aaron Williams from Minot, North Dakota who was immediately arrested. “He took out a knife and started slashing them, and three of them received cuts on the arm,” Sheriff Kelly Shannon of the Becker County Sheriff’s Department told Detroit Lakes News. The three Canadian victims all received treatment at the hospital, and were later released.
Aaron Williams was arraigned in a local court Friday afternoon, pleading not guilty to the assault charges, and was released on bail. He is due in court again for a hearing on August 25th.
As of late Friday afternoon, the festival had also seen three other assaults, six DWI charges, five disorderly conduct charges, and 12 people arrested on warrant charges. However while the theme of many of the summer’s country music festivals and concerts in 2014 has been a spike in the amount of arrests, violence, and alcohol-related hospital visits, Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon tells InForum that the amount of incidents at WE Fest were actually down this year compared to previous years, despite the triple stabbing. Sheriff Shannon cites in part the strong police presence local authorities dispatched to the festival. At any time, 25 sheriff’s officers or Minnesota State Police were on the site, and police had a command center set up near the east gate of the fest.
Sheriff Shannon also says that the festival does a great job assisting law enforcement and concert goers by being conscious of safety and offering emergency medical services and chaplain crews for people in need. “They’re invaluable for everything they do for us,” Shannon told InForum.
WE Fest began in 1983 in a barn and drew approximately 9,000 people. Since then it has become one of the biggest country music festivals in the United States, and one of the biggest that offers camping as a major part of the experience. On Friday, the crowd swelled to nearly 50,000 attendees.
News of country concerts getting out of hand have been in the headlines this summer. Last weekend a drunk driver ran over a police officer at a Jason Aldean concert, and 30 concertgoers were taken to local hospitals. 55 people were arrested, and 22 taken to hospitals at a Keith Urban show at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass. Later it was also revealed that an alleged rape happened in the venue’s lawn section while as many as 15 people stood and watched and took video of the incident. There was also a report of a gang rape at the Faster Horses Festival in mid July. An annual event in Pittsburgh became a national story when pictures of trash and drunken patrons went viral in late June. And a 22-year-old man was found dead in a dumpster in late July after a Jason Aldean concert in what is thought to be an alcohol-related incident.