The dark cloud hovering over the upcoming Wet Electric event at Huntington State Beach remains overhead in the wake of the legal storm, but promoters and organizers promise Surf City that the event will be peaceful and clean.
On the heels of July's U.S. Open of Surfing rioting along Main Street in HB, Wet Electric was understandably met with heavy censure by the seaside city. Several local news sources, including Huntington Beach Independent, reported on the city's attempt to shutdown the electronic dance music event, which ended in defeat after an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled that Wet Electric did not violate HB zoning ordinances.
And so the September 14 show with the questionable name will go on. But not without a ramped up police and security presence as well as a responsible, thorough cleanup plan.
Giant inflatable water slides, zip lines, cabanas and daybeds all sound the beach intruder alarm, as well as conjure images of during and post-beach bash devastation and destruction. Wet Electric is Beach Blanket Bingo meets 2013: "This will be the biggest and most memorable 21+ event of the summer!" touts the event website. The 21 and older EDM party will also feature nearly two dozen renowned DJs, along with "fully stocked bars," eats and a chance to do good with HB nonprofit Giving It Back To Kids, which benefits from the event. Ah, there's the silver lining.
GIBTK co-founder Robert Kalatschan cringes each time the event is referred to as a rave. "It's not a rave," he says, adding that the "bad press" surrounding Wet Electric has caused ticket sales to plummet. Kalatschan notes that sales are currently at about half of the norm for events promoted by Santa Ana-based Premiere Media Group.
Wet Electric, while publicized as a wild seaside shindig, is described by Kalatschan as a "highly controlled" event with twice the amount of security as the U.S. Open of Surfing. An advocate of the event from the start, the California State Parks system, in collaboration with PMG and the Huntington Beach Police Department, has beefed up police and security presence a "massive amount," according to CSP Peace Officer Supervisor Kevin Pearsall. In addition to 26 CSP peace officers, 90 private security staffers along with undercover officers will help police Saturday's event. HBPD officers will also patrol parts of Pacific Coast Highway and Brookhurst Street. Medical staff will be on standby under a first aid tent at the event, including eight state lifeguard/EMTs, five paramedics and a fire engine crew.
To answer the question of who foots the bill for the police and security staffing, it's PMG.
Is Pearsall concerned that an incident similar to the HB rioting may occur Saturday? "Not at all," he says, adding that the controlled party will be "swarmed and monitored" by authorities. He did note that due to the "bizarre" and "unfortunate" negative press plaguing the event and the city of HB having "sunken its claws" into it, authorities now have less control over who will attend. The Wet Electric demographic is business professionals between the ages of 25 and 35—people able and willing to shell out $75 to attend.
That demographic paired with the nonprofit aspect motivated the CSP system to consider the event in its early stages. When PMG obtained all necessary permits, officials said, "Why not give it a shot?" says Pearsall. Previous events on the state beach attracted tweens, teens and Christians, and a new, different target group appealed to the CSP system.
Echoing Kalatschan's disappointment over the drop in ticket sales, Pearsall provided some attendance numbers to help paint the stunted turnout picture. Less than 5,000 tickets have been sold with the sales goal looming high at 8,000-10,000.
Pearsall also added that while authorities "have no idea what to even expect" at said "evil rave" following the media heat, they do know one thing: Wet Electric is not expected to trash the beach. State park beach policy mandates that the beach must be left exactly how it was presented to event organizers. Should organizers fail to comply, they will be hit with fines and banned from the beach. Garbage cans already line the sand, but additional waste cans and dumpsters will dot the event—all at PMG's expense.
PMG apparently knows how to throw a successful party, but Wet Electric-goers should take a break from sliding, sipping and shimmying to stop by GIBTK's booth to learn more about the organization and hopefully be inspired to get involved. The anti-human trafficking nonprofit helps children in Southeast Asia reach their maximum potential by providing shelter, education, healthcare and support. As of now, 51 young Vietnamese adults are attending university in Vietnam thanks to GIBTK.
Attendees should also remember to be kind to the beach and local community Saturday. Love Surf City, and we'll love you right back.
UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 16: Pearsall tells us that the event overall "went well." He adds, "A lot of people decided to show up intoxicated, but considering over 5,000 people actually came, it was a relatively mellow group."
UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 13: Wet Electric's permit to sell alcohol was denied Friday, so it sounds like the event will be a bit less wet than planned.