Raftapalooza 2016, a floating party off Thayer Beach in Colchester, is planned for July 23. But Colchester police are already saying that the annual bash — this year’s will be the fourth — will not be welcome to return next year.
“I’ve been straight up that we do not want this event back in our community in 2017,” Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison announced at a public meeting Wednesday.
Trash, trespassing, drunks and parking problems made the mega-flotilla on Lake Champlain a mess last year, some residents said at the police department meeting to address public concerns as the event looms.
Each year, the free party and concert seems to get bigger. Last year more than 1,000 people took part. They lashed their motorboats together, drank beer on inflatable rafts and paddle boards, and rocked out to a band set up on a raft off Thayer Beach.
“It was perfect weather and it was just too many people for the area,” said Colchester resident Kyle Warren, who lives near the parking lot at Rossetti Natural Area, where some participants leave their vehicles. “It wasn’t a safe environment.”
Many ’paloozers appeared to be inebriated as they got into their cars after the big float last year, Warren said at Wednesday’s meeting. “It was scary. You could tell that people had been drinking and they should not have been driving.” He added: “I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
The mastermind behind Raftapalooza is Jeremy Dewyea, a Milton man who drives a lumber truck. He attended the meeting and pledged to get more volunteers to pick up trash, discourage trespassing and make Raftapalooza 2016 run smoothly. Dewyea also said he’s not likely to seek permits to hold the water-borne concert in Colchester next summer. “Has it gotten too large for the area?” he asked. “Probably, yes.”
Dewyea organized Raftapalooza after seeing similar events out of state. He said he makes no money from the event, and he set up a GoFundMe account to help raise the estimated $5,000 for police and security that his permits require.
The event runs from noon to 6 p.m. Dewyea said that this year, he will wind things down promptly and “strongly encourage” people to be off the water by 8 p.m. He also said he understands neighbors’ concerns.
Morrison said Raftapalooza has the necessary permits and there will be extra police supervision on water and land. Neighbors should call police with any concerns, she added.
“Just because the event is happening doesn’t mean that you have to be held hostage by the event,” Morrison said. “You don’t have to take a pass on bad behavior because it’s Raftapalooza.”
Raftapalooza this year falls on Morrison’s birthday. Morrison said she’d welcome weather that might keep the crowd smaller. “I am asking for rain on my birthday,” she said, “and maybe some thunder and lightning and hail.”