'Rasta at Shasta' festival riles residents. Organizers say it will 'project positivity'

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Mount Shasta's Shastice Park is the site of a three-day reggae festival, planned for Aug. 26-28, 2021.

A planned reggae festival at Mount Shasta's Shastice Park is meeting resistance from some in the community – including Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Stutz – who are worried the event will be a COVID-19 "superspreader."

"Rasta at Shasta" is planned for Aug. 26-28, featuring a slate of "high vibrational" reggae artists, a skateboarding contest, food, vendors and a "family zone." Festival tickets are being sold online for about $200. Locally, they can be found at Elevate, Watson's Vet's Club and Thrive Bar.

Camping is being offered for festival-goers at the Methodist Camp on Castle Lake Road.

Team 9th Island Events, which is organizing the festival, provided all of the requirements necessary to obtain approval from the city, Mount Shasta's acting City Manager Muriel Howarth Terrell confirmed Monday.

Mount Shasta Recreation and Parks District administrator Shannon Shaw said her board of directors granted Team 9th Island Events a "permit to plan" in the spring. Now that the festival has been approved by the city, Shaw said she'll review the permit and either approve or deny it.

Dr. Stutz said he "certainly believes that this could be a superspreader event in the making," said Siskiyou County Public Health Department public information officer Angelica Cook. "He strongly recommends that everyone wear masks, especially when physical distancing cannot be maintained. He also recommends that anyone who is feeling sick should not attend."

COVID, fire danger and other concerns

Concerns about an influx of out-of-town festival-goers spreading COVID-19 to locals, high fire danger, security, parking and a plethora of others surfaced a few weeks ago and spread rapidly on social media.

"This summer has been challenging enough," said concerned citizen Rita Wood. "I would love having a gig like this as we used to, but now is so not the time."

Team 9th Island Events CEO Pete Carroll said masks will not be required since the festival is an open-air event, as per California Department of Public Health guidelines. When asked about a social media post in which one of his employees said COVID-19 is a "made up fear," he said that person no longer answers emails or questions on social media.

"Our community will suffer the consequences of a mass exodus of people giving each other their 'woke' germs," said Veronica Coots, who lives near Shastice Park. "Considering most of these people will not be from this area, their numbers will not count in our county."

The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest this weekend is requiring people attending any acts indoors to show proof of vaccination or recent negative test and be masked. They are recommending masks for all the outdoor stages. The Monterey Jazz Festival says they are operating at 50% capacity and requiring staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated or report a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to work. They are urging but not requiring people to wear masks outdoors.

"We are all vulnerable as a community to folks coming here to party without a clue of the dangerous risks we face due to Delta and fires mostly," said Nan Olson. "Especially now! All it takes is just one person being unaware to affect us all."

Fire danger

Despite the fact that the Rasta Shasta website features a photo of people enjoying a bonfire, there will be "nothing resembling a flame" at either Shastice or Methodist Camp, Carroll said.

Chris Moss, who is the caretaker at Methodist Camp, said the camp does have a permit for a small campfire, "but due to the drought and high fire hazard, no campfires of any sort are presently allowed. ... This is the camp’s choice and it is our intent to maintain that prohibition until we have significant rainfall," Moss said.

Crowds and parking

Although the website says Methodist Camp "will host up to 700+ festival goers," Moss said that figure is "more than triple" the camp's hosting capacity.

Coots said she's worried about the parking situation.

"Who is controlling this? Where are people parking? Up and down Rockfellow (Drive)? In front of my driveway? Does our city have the means to regulate this?" Coots asked. "The answer is no. Loitering on the street, people sleeping in their cars?"

Howarth Terrell said Team 9th Island Events has hired a professional security firm and a professional shuttle firm. It will have a first aid station with emergency medical personnel present.

"They have met insurance, parking, porta-potty, garbage and recycling requirements," said Howarth Terrell. "They will be hand delivering notification to neighbors in the area. They have in excess of 20 volunteers to help with parking."

Howarth Terrell reiterated that there will be no fire, no overnight camping at Shastice Park and the event will follow animal and COVID-19 regulations.

The normal curfew for amplified sound at Shastice Park is 10 p.m. Shaw said Rasta at Shasta has a special permit included in their plan that allows for music until 10:30 p.m.

Organizers promise a 'unifying event'

Carroll, who lives in Ashland, Ore., said he idea to host a festival at Shastice came last year, when he accompanied his son to the skate park and imagined a reggae concert with Mt. Shasta as a magnificent backdrop.

Bellis Sturdivant, age 26, said she doesn't appreciate organizers and musicians refer to Mount Shasta as "Shasta city."

"I don't feel like these people respect us, and it seems like the organizers are capitalizing on the mountain and its namesake," she said. 

"People act like we want to come 'rape and pillage' Mount Shasta," said Carroll, but his intent "is the polar opposite of that. This will not be a wild, raunchy music festival. We are fun, with high vibrational reggae artists who project positivity," he said. "I think it's a win-win."

Not without precedent

Although some in the community have expressed disbelief that such a festival is being allowed at Shastice Park, Shaw said it isn't unprecedented. The most similar is the ShastaYama Taiko Festival, which was also held on the upper soccer field at Shastice for several years. Although in years past, Mt. Shasta Rotary's Blackberry Music Festival was held at Mount Shasta City Park, it will be held at Shastice this year, on Sept. 5.

And although the upper soccer field will be cordoned off for paying festival-goers only, the rest of Shastice Park will be open to the public throughout the event, said Shaw.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.