Sol Fest attendees, venue owner discuss experiences, perspectives on event

Some people who have attended Sol Fest have shared their experiences with Holmes County Advertiser, ranging from the positive to the negative. [COLLIN BREAUX | The Advertiser]

With Sol Fest now in the rear view mirror, attendees and the owner for the venue have spoken up about their experiences during the multi-day electronic dance music (EDM) festival and reactions to various aspects of the event–from the presence of law enforcement to event logistics and the backlash surrounding the event, which saw numerous arrests and outcry from local residents.

A 25-year-old event volunteer named Steven, who asked that only his first name be used, said Sol Fest will likely be his last festival for a long time. It was Steven’s eighth festival in two years and he worked mostly at the box office and lost and found. 

“The majority of attendees seem to press the gas ‘til the engine blows,” Steven said. “My final straw was Saturday night when I found out seven medics were on site for 10k attending. The medical tent was set up by lost and found Friday. … Within 30 minutes of being at lost and found, two patients came in and volunteers were scrambling to get medical on the radio.”

Steven said he also learned a couple on Friday allegedly pickpocketed over 150 phones.

“The cherry on top was learning that a fire engulfed several cars about 200 feet from my camp,” he said. “We are fortunate enough it rained that day. Otherwise, that fire could’ve spread a lot more rather quickly with very few around since everyone was in the venue. The people attending these festivals just want a safe place to press the gas pedal and party.”

Steven said he attends EDM festivals as a way to “truly” let go and relax in an environment.

“The fest schedule and lineup was incredible but organization was awful,” Steven said. “I’m currently unaware if anyone died but this fest could have easily been a mass casualty event.”

He further said death “isn’t the consequence anyone should suffer for wanting to be a part of the fun.”

While no deaths have been reported, a deputy with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office had his head bitten in by a man alleged to be under the influence of multiple drugs. HCSO and other law enforcement agencies reported a multitude of arrests for alleged drug use and possession before and during the festival. 

Holmes County officials have begun initial steps to take legal action against Sol Fest and the venue to recoup costs related to law enforcement and other services. According to County officials, the promoters were supposed to pay over $81,000 but have currently paid 75% of that.

Sol Fest was held May 2-5 at Vortex Spring in Ponce de Leon. The venue is owned by Angela Dockery.

Dockery said above “everything and the negativity,” the people she physically met during Sol Fest were “great people.” Dockery said she prayed with some of the people.

“I have a big heart for our county,” Dockery said.

An event like Sol Fest puts Vortex Spring and Holmes County on the map as “something amazing,” she said.

In the middle of the festival, Dockery said a company called her wanting to do a Christian event at Vortex Spring, which she is for. 

Dockery said she has nothing to do with the reported bad behavior and that people should be kicked out if they are violent or misbehaving.

“I don’t support any bad activity,” she said.

Sol Fest organizers Alexus Williams and Justin Kulklusky are “wonderful people” and encountered a lot of animosity coming into the event, Dockery said.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be them,” she said. “They just love people.” 

“There were more positives than there were negatives,” Dockery added. 

Michael Graham bought the VIP+ glamping experience and said it was a “rip-off” and “nowhere near what they promised when I bought the tickets or what was advertised on the website.”

Graham emailed Sol Fest his complaints, a copy of which he shared with Holmes County Advertiser.

“First off, I understand that not everything can run perfect or as expected at all festivals,” Graham said. “However, for the amount of money I paid for this experience, I was highly disappointed. I ordered the VIP + glamping package and was promised many things in that package that were never delivered or completely missing altogether.”

Upon arriving, Graham said he was directed to four to five different areas to enter.

“No one knew where to send us or what was happening when we arrived. We were sent to GA camping, back to box office, back to GA, then finally to the glamping area,” Graham said. “We were told we would be greeted by the VIP+ glamping concierge once we arrived. However, no one was at the check-in tent and we were greeted with someone who had no knowledge of what we were supposed to do.”

After about a 45 minute wait, Graham said he was told he had to check in over the phone with someone. 

“We all stood in line as we were greeted via speaker phone by someone who said we would be getting our locks, a waiver, lights, and other promised VIP glamping items,” Graham said. “Not only did we never get the waiver the entire trip, we never received any of the items promised for our tent. No locks, no lights, nothing.”

While Graham said the beginning was “a bit disappointing,” he was still ready for a great VIP experience.

“Once the festival began, it became clear that there was no real VIP+ experience. The VIP gate was closed to us all day until 4 p.m. so we had to enter, wait in line, and sit with everyone from GA and VIP to use the main entrance,” Graham said. “There was no one stopping people from coming into the glamping area, checking the bathrooms and showers, etc., until the final day.”

Graham said there were “an extreme amount of people in our tent area who were not part of the glamping area.”

“Shower lines and bathroom lines were full of people from GA and camping using those facilities,” he continued. “There was no one checking people entering the VIP lounge, there was no VIP swimming area, no VIP access to secret set stages. Nothing that was promised when I purchased the tickets.”

Graham said he felt “cheated out of the experience, especially for that price, upwards of $4000 I spent on them and the experience was honestly no better than GA at most festivals.”

“We are avid festival goers and were so excited to be a VIP+ member at this one and it fell well short of the promises made. I hope there is something you will all do to at least make it right for the ones who purchased your most expensive experience,” Graham said to Sol Fest. “The festival has a lot of potential and the sets were great, we would come again if these issues were fixed. I want to come again as an RV camper one day but not if the experience is so lackluster as it was this time. Again, we had fun at the actual festival but, man, we are so disappointed and had to leave early.”

Graham further said he felt he was “lied to and cheated when it came to what was advertised on the website compared to what was delivered at the event.”

Not everyone had a negative experience. Jessie Adams said Sol Fest was the “best fest and best time of my life.”

Adams said HCSO “harassed everyone.”

“People paid good money and traveled from all over the world to come to this festival in Holmes County and the newspapers and the cops act like it was just some horrible thing but I want to know, if they had a Clint Black concert with 10,000 attendees there, how many of those 10,000 attendees of that Clint Black concert would have been smoking pot and gotten arrested for disorderly conduct or ended up in a fight?” Adams said.

Adams said he was not harassed and had no issues.

“The water, the layout, the shows, the art, the energy the people brought was top notch,” Adams said.

Adams said come the Saturday of the festival, the mood from law enforcement shifted.

“The cops now had an agenda, they wanted to prove a point and to do that they had to find something,” Adams said. “They brought in more cops and, in between the shows, would lock hands and go through the thousands of people sitting packed shoulder to shoulder in the camp stomping through, shining lights and handpicking through the whole festival.”

Sol Fest and similar festivals are “formed and focused on love, respect for each other, and love of the natural world” but “because it wasn’t country rodeo music and people blasting AC/DC or Kid Rock, the cops don’t understand the people and the environment they were in,” Adams said.

“I felt completely safe with the fellow 10k fest goers,” Adams said. “I never once worried about my things being stolen from camp, being robbed in the dark, or scared of any of my fellow fest goers.”

Adams said young people in Holmes County “stay in so much trouble” and the area is “ate up with drugs” because the community “strangles any outlet the people have to express and enjoy themselves.”

“Many people tried to warn the fest beforehand not to go to Holmes County,” Adams said. “The cops and the community are not welcoming. They don’t want a growing, prospering city where people have opportunities.”

Rachel Webb, from Louisville, Kentucky, said Sol Fest “wasn’t completely well put together” but organizers “tried.”

“Everyone was kind and most weren’t doing anything wrong,” Webb said. “They were harassed.”

The people doing wrong deserved consequences, Webb said.

“I had a great time despite the negativity,” she said. 

Organizers for Sol Fest have not responded to a request for comment, as of this post.

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