Lewis County Adopts Revised Code on Music Festivals

March 2015


Live events sector


Lewis County Commissioners have  approved a revised County Code regarding music festivals that in effect makes a law that was previously updated in 1998 up to date, especially after officials said a planned rave in 2014 in West Lewis County skirted the permitting process and nearly 19,000 people were invited to the event. Lewis County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washington. As of the 2010 census, the population was 75,455. The county seat is Chehalis, and its largest city is Centralia.

The changes to the Code included bringing the minimum number of people expected to attend the festival down from 500 to 200, and requiring the landowner or the occupant of the property on which the festival is to be held to consent to possible searches of the property during the event. David Fine, the deputy civil prosecuting attorney for the county, said the code addresses “inadequate provisions” for attendees and some residents. Those issues include ensuring roads remain open for emergency vehicles and local traffic, adequate sanitation and insurance requirements. Officials had expressed concern about several of those issues when they learned about the Epic III rave coming to West Lewis County five months ago. The county then issued an injunction against the festival, preventing it from ever starting.

Other changes to the policy include a provision that the outside perimeter of the festival grounds cannot be less than 500 feet from any school, church, residence, commercial building or farm building unless the occupants or owners of those facilities approve such;  a flat rate fee of $2,500 for a permit;  a requirement that lighting used for a festival after sundown must be hooded and shielded;  and a provision for officials to cancel a music festival if a red flag fire weather warning goes into effect.

A question of ‘grandfather’ rights has now arisen and the Washington Bluegrass Association had written the Lewis County Community Development office over concerns they could possibly not be grandfathered into the new law; their Mount St. Helens Bluegrass Festival has been held at Toledo High School for nearly 25 years. Association member Fred Hart asked for confirmation the group could get a specific exemption for their event from the new code, stating that the festival has been able to operate without problems for years.

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