Thousands of people gathered last week to hold “America’s wildest and craziest country party” in a Kentucky town so small it doesn’t even have a stoplight. Five days of disorder resulted in four dozen people criminally charged and left others with gruesome injuries.
Blue Holler Offroad Park in Edmonson County played host to “Redneck Rave,” a five-day country party that organizers promised would feature “mud, music and mayhem.” The event was organized by a country rapper known as “Justin Time.”
The Edmonson County sheriff’s office was tasked with policing twice its usual population as some Redneck Rave participants allegedly committed assaults, severed fingers, got impaled and became so intoxicated they were ill.
Sheriff Shane Doyle knew the event would cause problems for his staff after similar gatherings last year “overwhelmed” his personnel. More planning by the event hosts meant more people showing up. Doyle had to plan more, too.
He gathered a month beforehand with local emergency management officials, law enforcement partners, firefighters and emergency medical services to find out how to best handle what was promoted as the “biggest country party you’ll ever go to.” He put his deputies on mandatory overtime and enlisted the help of his volunteer deputies.
“We all tried to figure out, ‘how can we provide 24-hour coverage during this event,’” he said. The sheriff’s office doesn’t typically have the staff or the budget to provide 24-hour coverage.
Manpower was an issue. Deputies tried to contain the party
Doyle said he didn’t have enough personnel to go into the park and shut down all illegal activity. The plan instead was to contain it. The sheriff’s office hoped to catch anyone doing anything illegal outside the park.
“They were going to do what they were going to do,” Doyle said. “We wanted to be good hosts … but we also wanted them to be good neighbors and visitors.”
The sheriff’s office took preventative measures, like setting up traffic checkpoints. It didn’t take long to make the first arrest.
“The first vehicle that came through, we found meth, marijuana, and an open alcohol container,” Doyle said. “And then one of the occupants had two active warrants … “We were like ‘well, this doesn’t bode well for the weekend.’”
Ultimately, 48 people being criminally charged, Doyle said. Fourteen of them were arrested. The rest received citations. The charges ranged from assault and strangulation to drug and alcohol possession (Edmonson County is a dry county).
Those arrested were from Kentucky and several other states, including Michigan, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, according to court records.
Clara Betke and Donald Wayne Carpenter, both Michigan residents, were accused of trafficking in marijuana after law enforcement allegedly found containers of marijuana and pre-rolled joints in their pickup truck, according to court records.
Joseph Lanham, a Louisville resident, faces trafficking charges after deputies allegedly found bags of marijuana and pre-rolled joints in his vehicle, according to court records.
The sheriff’s office ultimately filed 30 drug and alcohol-related charges. Six felony charges were filed against some participants, Doyle said.
Assaults, grisly injuries at the Kentucky event
One attendee had his throat slit by a supposed friend, Doyle said.
“They were intoxicated, they got into a fight, one of them slit the other one’s throat and then fled into the park,” Doyle said.
Law enforcement hadn’t found the suspect yet, Doyle said Tuesday.
In another altercation, 29-year-old Missouri resident Lancer Hodges was accused of strangling a woman with whom he argued over a blanket, according to court records. The victim told police he had choked her “until she was losing consciousness” and couldn’t breathe, deputies wrote in an arrest citation.
Hodges insisted that he didn’t choke her but the victim was hoarse, had scratches on her neck, red marks on her throat and fingerprints behind her ears, according to an arrest citation. Hodges was charged with strangulation, wanton endangerment and fourth-degree domestic violent assault, according to court records.
There were plenty of accidental injuries too. One of the partygoers was driving a side-by-side vehicle at the park when he drove over a 2-to-3 inch log that went through the bottom of his vehicle. After breaking through the floorboard, the log impaled him in the abdomen, Doyle said.
“When it tried to come out through his back it was stopped by a steel plate behind his seat,” Doyle said.
Paramedics had to leave the log in the victim, deciding it was safer than taking it out before he was flown to a hospital, Doyle said.
Another man had his finger mashed after his vehicle, which was lifted up using a jack, slipped off the jack and landed on his hand.
“He didn’t lose the whole finger but he lost part of one,” Doyle said.
Other people suffered lacerations, dislocated fingers, broken bones and more, Doyle said. The sheriff’s office accompanied emergency medical services into the event whenever they had to go treat someone.
“There were so many intoxicated people, we just decided, ‘If dispatch sends an ambulance in, we’re sending a deputy in with them,’” Doyle said.
Doyle said he wasn’t aware of any deaths connected to the event this year. The Redneck Rave was held twice in Edmonson County last year and at least one person died, he said.
‘It adds stress to the community’
Doyle said the Redneck Rave was stressful for emergency workers and residents. Deputies accumulated 44 hours of overtime, all of which is funded by taxpayers.
“The people that live here, they don’t want this business here,” Doyle said. “What we want are responsible businesses that add to the value of our communities. That business (Blue Holler Offroad Park) has the capability of being that. To date, it hasn’t always added value to the community. At times, it adds stress to the community.”
Doyle said he doesn’t “ever want to come across as trying to shut a business down in our county,” and he thinks Edmonson County has great things to offer its guests. He just wants them to behave themselves when they show up.
“If they come here and break the law, we’ll deal with them,” he said.
Blue Holler Offroad Park didn’t immediately respond when asked about last week’s event.
Another ‘Redneck Rave’ planned for October
Justin Stowers, the organizer of Redneck Rave, said the event “was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“We can definitely improve on a lot of things to make the one in October run a lot better,” Stowers said in a Facebook post. “We are listening to all your suggestions. This was the biggest event we’ve ever done and with as many people and random things that popped up unexpectedly I feel like we all handled it very well.”
Stowers didn’t respond immediately respond when asked about the event.
In addition to live music, the June edition of the rave featured a huge football game, a demolition derby with a $5,000 purse, goldfish racing and more. Ticket prices varied between $50 and $250, according to the event’s ticket page.