Miami-Dade County

Smoother weekend for Ultra Music Festival this year

A fan crowd surfs during Le Youth's set at the Worldwide Stage on Day 4 of Ultra Music Festival on Sunday, March 29, 2015.
A fan crowd surfs during Le Youth's set at the Worldwide Stage on Day 4 of Ultra Music Festival on Sunday, March 29, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The pulse of Ultra Music Festival continued to rock Bayfront Park through its last performances Sunday, capping off a weekend of joyous raving that went relatively smoothly for organizers and security personnel.

As concertgoers from all over the world jammed to the beat of electronic dance music and drivers endured traffic snarls through downtown streets during the three-day festival, a number of key security policy changes appeared to work in keeping the weekend largely incident-free.

One of the major changes was making the event adult-only, which some fans applauded on Sunday.

“Oh absolutely, there’s a better vibe here,” said Vincent Mirarchi, 22, who traveled from Pennsylvania for this third Ultra. He said he’d noticed the younger crowd was rowdier and, at times, more apt to drug use.

“It’s a thousand times better without the kids.”

Miami resident Kristina Rajic, 23, echoed Mirarchi. This was her fourth festival, and she enjoyed the calmer atmosphere, particularly compared to last year.

“It’s been more chill,” she said. “Last year, I saw 16-year-olds on drugs, and it was weird.”

Other changes included an increase in police and fire rescue presence, the deployment of festival ambassadors to assist attendees, and the same stronger fencing that was used for the Miami ePrix race downtown in March. The focus on upping safety measures came after a security guard was trampled by gate-crashers last year and an attendee died from a drug overdose.

Rene Pimentel, spokesman for the Miami Police Department, said authorities anticipated having a lower arrest count this year. A total of 26 were arrested Sunday, 27 were arrested on Saturday, and 23 on Friday.

“It looks like we may end up with fewer arrest than last year,” Pimentel said Sunday evening. “And no significant incidents.”

Miami Dade Fire Rescue credited cooler temperatures and the 18-and-older policy for the calmer weekend.

"Unseasonably cool weather and the fact that they are only allowing 18 and over has tempered the amount of runs over previous years," said Battalion Chief David Duenas.

On Friday there were 70 calls and 12 people transported to the hospital. On Saturday there were 56 calls with 12 people transported.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had 12 teams of two paramedics on foot stationed throughout the festival, six golf-cart style rescue vehicles, each with three paramedics, and four waiting rescue trucks with three-member crews. There was also an on-site command staff in case of any emergencies.

Duenas said the calls ranged from overdoses to dehydration to slip and falls.

"At this point there has not been any severe cases," he said early Sunday evening.

For the most part, fans clad in funky outfits, beaded bracelets and hydration packs enjoyed the show in a peaceful, friendly atmosphere. Even after a few rain-soaked hours that caused some stages to temporarily close Friday night, revelers kept their spirits up and their hips shaking.

Ray Martinez, a former Miami Beach police chief who is now Ultra’s head of security, said he was pleased with the implementation of this year’s plan to make the event, which sees about 50,000 people a day, a safer one.

“Anything I asked for, anything I said we needed to do, we did,” he said.

He said Miami’s police and fire agencies, plus Ultra organizers and security will all sit down to recap soon and see if there are any enhancements to be made for future festivals.

Mirarchi said he noticed some people who appeared to be consuming drugs, but he said they were in the minority.

“There are some people who come here to do other things,” he said. “But most are here to just enjoy the music.”

Krystal Vatowr, 18, sat on a grassy patch at one of the festival’s stages as German house artist Claptone performed. She said while she’s tried drugs at raves before, she prefers the take in the party without them.

She recalled seeing a man who appeared to be seizing get carted off by emergency workers during one of the rain delays Friday night, and said the experience is better without being altered.

“I can rave sober, and I can rave on drugs,” she said. “But prefer it sober. I don’t really think drugs should be part of the scene.”

Miami Herald reporter Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

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