Wet Electric comes off with few hitches

Revelers hollered, jumped and pumped their fists as a disc jockey bumped remixes of Nirvana, Macklemore and M.I.A. at one of the three stages at the Wet Electric dance party Saturday at Huntington State Beach.

Contrary to the fears of many Huntington Beach residents and city officials, the electronic music festival went on without any major incidents.

About 6,000 people attended the event, at Brookhurst Street and Pacific Coast Highway, according to Steve Thacher, president of event organizer Premiere Media Group.

Thacher wandered around the beach with a radio earpiece, greeting revelers as they walked in, making sure the event was running smoothly.

The promoter said attendance, which originally was projected to reach 10,000 people, took a hit after the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Friday denied his application to sell alcohol because of public safety concerns.

PHOTOS: Wet Electric Festival

At the entrance, a large sign read, "No alcohol will be served." Hundreds of people waited in line while event staff meticulously searched bags and purses for alcohol and drugs. Cardboard bins were filled with confiscated water bottles.

Ricky Estrada, 29, of Irvine, attended from noon to 4 p.m. He said he had a good time but was a little upset with the lack of alcohol.

"It takes away from the fun," he said. "It's cool because it's out on the beach, and it's big, but it's just too strict. A little bit of alcohol would have made things a little bit better. Actually, it would have made things a lot better."

Thacher said people were having fun without alcohol, dancing and enjoying three large, inflatable slides and two zip lines.

Drink tents that would have been serving alcohol were instead selling water, cranberry and pineapple juice, and energy drinks.

Wahoo's Fish Taco had multiple booths on the beach. Restaurant founder Wing Lam said he didn't think the lack of alcohol kept people away.

"Alcohol or no alcohol, everybody's here," he said. "Everybody in there is having a good time. The deejays are spinning, and they're dancing."

Though the party was dry, it was a different story in the parking lot. Bottles of beer, champagne and other forms of liquor littered the ground and the trunks of a few sedans.

California State Park officers patrolled the lots, looking for people drinking in their vehicles, and reported a few incidents in which officials came upon stashes of beer and questioned the presumed owners.

Brian Ketterer, Orange Coast District superintendent of California State Parks, said a smattering of arrests were made for drug possession, drunken driving and alcohol possession on state park property.

Twenty to 30 officers, including a few in plain clothes, patrolled the party, according to Ketterer. 

Ketterer lauded his staff for their handling of the crowd. He thought attendees would become restless because of the no-alcohol rule and was pleased to find that wasn't the case.

"One of the things I'm most proud of, which I think was something that the city did not recognize, is that we are a professional public-safety agency," Ketterer said. "Our incident action plan was foolproof. We thought of every contingent."

Huntington Beach city officials had sought to block Wet Electric, but a judge denied an eleventh-hour request for a restraining order.

Members of the City Council, as well as some residents, had been concerned about the possibility of a melee similar to the violence that followed the recent U.S. Open of Surfing.

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