ELIZABETHTOWN — With about three weeks to go, Hardin County officials are once again getting ready for their toughest and most-expensive weekend of the year.
The 2012 Gathering of the Juggalos begins Aug. 8 and ends Aug. 12, lasting one more day than it has in previous years.
This past week, the line-up of acts was released — a large slate of musicians, comedians and wrestlers that includes names including Cheech and Chong, George Clinton and Funkadelic, ’80s rappers The Fat Boys, DMX, Fear Factory, The Game and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
The festival has been held at Cave-In-Rock since 2007 and attracts about 10,000 fans of the Insane Clown Posse, who have a large, loyal group of followers called Juggalos.
Over the years, the Hardin County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police have responded to a number of incidents connected with the Gathering.
In 2010, a man was stabbed at the event and had to be airlifted to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Ind. Reality show star Tila Tequila also was the victim of attacks at that event, when several patrons threw items at her on stage during a performance.
At last year’s fest, 24-year-old Jesse Waters of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was found dead in the Ohio River, one of three deaths related to the Gathering in recent years — one apparently from a drug overdose and another apparently caused by heat stroke.
Officials estimated it cost the county more than $10,000 last year to cover expenses of that event alone, which is promoted by Tim York and held on private property.
In addition to law enforcement costs, the county’s cash-strapped ambulance service also takes a hit, as well as Hardin County Hospital. The county rarely sees reimbursement from Juggalos who are treated for injuries or sickness related to the event.
To help offset the county’s burden, State Reps. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, and John Bradley, D-Marion, sponsored House Bill 5479, which would give Hardin County the ability to tax concertgoers 6.5 percent of their ticket price. However, that bill was referred to the rules committee in March.
“That bill is not dead,” said Hardin County Board Chairman Wayne Eichorn, “but there’s going to have to be a lot of compromising. The good news is we’ve dealt with this for a few years now, and we’ve gotten a lot better at planning, and it doesn’t cost us like it used to.”
Hardin County Sheriff Joyce Cullison said her department has been preparing for the event for months. Illinois State Police will again lend a hand.
Cullison said two of her biggest concerns are traffic control and the heat.
“We’re trying to prepare the best we can,” Cullison said. “Just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.”
On Twitter: @BrentStewartSI