June 18, 2018
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One person arrested in connection with Chickenfest; police break up large parties at The Grove apartments in Orono

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

OLD TOWN, Maine — Chickenfest 2013 drew a large police presence to Bennoch Road on Friday night, but with the exception of a warrant arrest, one noise complaint and a few summonses, resulted in few problems, according to police and the property owner who hosted the annual impromptu music festival.

This year’s gathering was hosted on private property with the permission of the landowner. In recent years, the event had been held without landowner permission and property owners were left with trash to clean up and damage to repair, according to police.

Police targeted the event this year in hopes of halting or at least controlling the size of the crowd, calling it a dangerous environment. The site of the party is kept secret until a day or two — and sometimes hours — before the event. The location spreads quickly but quietly through social media and text messages.

Tim Taylor, owner of Kingman’s, an Old Town concert venue and bar, hosted this year’s Chickenfest at an old quarry behind his property. Taylor said Monday morning that he planned a party for a group of friends to celebrate University of Maine graduations.

Chickenfest typically draws a large number of college-age people and students.

Word spread and the party, which Taylor originally didn’t want to call Chickenfest because of the stigma, evolved into that through word of mouth and social media. Police caught wind of the location that afternoon, according to Old Town police Capt. Kyle Smart.

Despite the police presence, what started as a gathering of a dozen friends in the afternoon drew 100 or 200 attendees and five bands into the night, according to Taylor.

“There was a helicopter flying circles around my property at 2 p.m. [Friday],” Taylor said. Police arrived at his door Friday afternoon and handed him a copy of a police services ordinance that stated that property owners who host parties could be cited for the costs of police intervention, Taylor and Smart said.

Police arrived at the road soon after and were posted along the street, according to Taylor. Taylor and his friends began turning away people they didn’t know at the street to keep numbers down and ensure that no one underage or anyone who might cause trouble made it to the site, he said.

The only arrest of the night directly related to Chickenfest was of 28-year-old Robert Ryan of Orono. He was arrested on a warrant for failure to pay fines out of Androscoggin County, according to Smart.

“There was carload after carload of people being dropped off in that area,” Smart said. One Bennoch Road resident called police after watching a car drop off a group of men near her home. Police arrived to find Ryan and a group of friends walking to the Chickenfest venue.

When police searched Ryan, they found a used pipe and a usable amount of marijuana, according to Smart. He was taken to Penobscot County Jail and summoned for possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana.

Shortly after midnight Saturday, Maine State Police on detail searching for potential alternate Chickenfest locations or drivers operating under the influence stopped a vehicle. Inside the vehicle were Jamie Merriam, 18 of Harpswell, Margaret Hoare, 19, of New York and Casey Thornton, 18, of Bethel, according to a Maine State Police Highlight posting. Merriam and Thornton each were charged with possession of alcohol by a minor and Hoare was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. State police said the trio “appeared to be looking for Chickenfest.”

The trooper responsible for the stop was not on duty Monday, so no further information was available.

Police faced larger problems on Friday and Saturday nights, breaking up large parties at The Grove in Orono. Local police agencies, some of which were on the lookout for other potential Chickenfest locations, were called both Friday and Saturday nights to the apartment complex, which is in its first year of operation.

“The officers went in [Friday night] to break up a party consisting of about 150 people,” Smart said.

Orono, Old Town and state police went to the property to break up the parties and disperse the crowds after a resident called in a noise complaint.

Most left the property or returned to their apartments, Smart said, but when Matthew Stevens, 21, a Grove resident, was told to return to his apartment, he refused multiple times and argued with the Old Town police officer who was dealing with him.

He was arrested and charged with failure to disperse, Smart said.

Police say The Grove party could have been overflow from people who couldn’t get to the Chickenfest site. Saturday night’s Grove party was even larger, according to Smart.

Multiple agencies descended on the complex in September, shortly after students moved in, to break up weekend parking lot parties of 300 to 500 people. The parties got dangerous when people began flipping and skateboarding off roofs and damaging vehicles, police say.

In another online posting, Maine State Police said the “unruly” and “largely intoxicated crowd Saturday did significant property damage to vehicles.”

Taylor said he hoped to “work with police next year to make [Chickenfest] a legitimate event,” adding that he believed police overreacted and that posting officers along the roadway posed more of a traffic hazard than a deterrent.

“You cannot stop that party, people will continue to do it,” Taylor said, adding that people have walked more than a mile through the woods to get to Chickenfest in the past.

He said Friday’s Chickenfest was a “fantastic coordination of bands and fans” that resulted in “minimal issues.”

Smart said he believes the warning police issued to Taylor on Friday afternoon “put a damper on things.”

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