Ticket Distribution, Crowding Problems Haunt Harwood Halloween

The sold-out Girl Talk concert and after-party made this year’s Harwood Halloween one of the largest ever.However, the size and location of the event caused many problems for audience members and event organizers alike.Because of the number of students pushing against the stage during the concert, which was held in the Pomona ITS parking structure, two of the 1,500 people in attendance were treated for injuries, and Girl Talk paused mid-concert for about 25 minutes as concert organizers asked the crowd to move back from the stage.During the concert, some students in the front were crushed against the stage and, in order to help them escape, security guards began pulling them onto the stage. Once the students were onstage, many remained there, leading event organizers to worry the stage would collapse. Although Pomona’s Committee for Campus Life and Activities (CCLA) specified on the event invitation that only 15 people would be allowed onstage, the committee co-chairs estimate there were at least 30.“I don’t think we could have ever comprehended how crazy the pushing [would be], and we knew it would be a crazy crowd,” said Max Gold PO ’12, one of the CCLA annual events co-chairs.About 20 minutes into Girl Talk’s performance, organizers stopped the concert, turned on the lights and urged students to move off and away from the stage.“During Girl Talk, way too many people were onstage, so the stage couldn’t actually bear the weight of people dancing up there so they had to get people off,” said Natalie Chung PO ’11, another CCLA annual events co-chair.Nina Nirema PO ’12, who had attended two Girl Talk concerts prior to Harwood Halloween, said that overall the concert was not well planned, and organizers should have known students would fight to get onstage.“I don’t think they knew,” Nirema said. “If they did, they would have planned for people rushing [the stage]. I think that those problems could have easily been avoided if they’d done a little more research about the concert. We paid so much money for him to be here. They should have invested in a fence or higher stage or something.”A safe room was set up in the Tranquada Student Services Center with a doctor and two Emergency Medical Technicians. Students taken there had heavy bruising, large cuts and scrapes, and one had experienced an asthma attack.“We purely stopped in the middle for a while because we were concerned for the safety of the students,” said CCLA Advisor Ellie Ash. “We needed to stop it and back people up because students were getting pushed and hurt. I was not anticipating having to do that. The ultimate choice was for the safety of students. It takes a long time to move a crowd of that size.”There was also pressure from Girl Talk to allow more people onstage.“His manager wanted more people onstage, but that’s our final say because we’re dealing with the safety and security,” said Than Volk PO ’10, who coordinated much of the event. “Inevitably, more people were going to find a way onstage, as they very clearly did, but it got to the point where the number [Girl Talk’s manager was] comfortable with was too much. The problem is that it was Girl Talk and everyone wanted to be onstage, so there was an unusual push forward to get onstage by essentially everyone there.”Volk said the problem might have been avoided by placing a railing between the stage and the audience.“I think if we’d had a railing, it would have solved a lot of what we faced,” Volk said. “It wasn’t in the contract and we haven’t done anything of that scale in that space before. We didn’t know what to expect and it was a breakdown in communication, and we weren’t fully prepared by his agency in what we might have needed to alleviate some of the problems.”During the after-party, an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 students from across the 5Cs filled the parking structure, causing administrators to limit admission between midnight and 12:30 a.m. As students began leaving, they reopened admission to the party and by 12:30 a.m., all students were being allowed in.“I felt like, given all of the circumstances, that it went well,” Ash said. “I was concerned about student safety on a number of occasions, but I felt like stopping people from coming in for a while and stopping the concert were both good calls.”Some students expressed concern that the ground was shaking as students jumped, but according to Physics Professor David Tanenbaum, it is desirable that structures be flexible and capable of movement in the event of earthquakes.“The fact that it moves doesn’t mean it’s about to fall down,” Tanenbaum said.CCLA organizers also said they were not worried the structure was unstable.“We weren’t concerned about it when it started happening,” Gold said. “It’s just something that happens when you have 1,500 people jumping.”Though CCLA originally planned to sell 1,850 tickets to the concert, the number was cut to 1,500 because of fire code restrictions.Pomona distributed tickets to the other 5Cs based on how much money each school chose to contribute. For each $500 dollars contributed, the schools received 100 tickets. Scripps and Pitzer each received 200 tickets, and CMC received 300.Harvey Mudd declined to subsidize tickets because of a conflict with their Trick or Drink party, which was eventually rescheduled for Friday, Oct. 30.The remaining 800 tickets were sold to Pomona students within seven hours of going on sale. Pitzer reportedly sold 100 tickets in 10 minutes.Many students throughout the 5Cs expressed frustration over the fact that they could not get tickets.Though Ash sent an e-mail to Pomona students the day before warning against false wristbands, tickets, and IDs, at least ten students were caught with fake wristbands and 20 with fake tickets.Because it is considered forgery of official school documents, the students were written up. Consequences will be determined by the students’ respective schools. According to Ash, at least one or two of the students caught were from Pomona.“The staff was checking every single ticket carefully,” Ash said. “I was really impressed Pomona students didn’t fake [them]. I think the e-mail I sent the day before helped.”The event, which required eight months of planning, cost almost $40,000. The Girl Talk contract alone made up $22,000.Overall, the organizers said, the event went well.“Ideally, it would have gone smoothly and we wouldn’t have had to deal with [these problems], but I think given what we were facing and what fully wasn’t anticipated, we were able to pull a pretty strong compromise out of that and give everyone a good show,” Volk said.

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