June 5, 2007
Fire Eaters Arrested at Blue Plum Festival
By Pamela Mortimer
Michael Fatolitis and Philip J. Rose, both 19, were arrested at the 7th annual Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, Tennessee for eating fire.
Johnson City Police Department made 76 arrests for crimes committed at the 7th annual Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, TN. There were 84 charges levied against festival goers, including 4 felony charges.
The most notable offenses were conducted by Michael Fatolitis and Philip J. Rose, who decided that fire eating would be a nice addition to the two day celebration. The two men used kerosene to shoot flames from their mouths, a la rock god Gene Simmons. According to a police report, the alleged offenders posed a “danger by flames that was around the area of performance”.
Fatolitis and Rose, neither with a valid address, were reportedly in possession of a gallon container of kerosene. According to JCPD Major Trent Harris, the kerosene had the potential of igniting and causing serious damage. Both men were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, then were hauled off to the Washington County Detention Center.
Last year, only 5 police officers patrolled the festival since rain had reduced the celebration to one day. During this year’s festival there were 35 police officers patrolling the streets. The additional officers were allocated to enforce the new beer ordinance.
There had been complaints that the festival was straying from its family-oriented atmosphere because of excessive alcohol consumption. The complaints prompted the policy changes and additional police presence. In accordance with the new policy, beer had to be off the streets by 10:30 p.m.
“This type of behavior is unacceptable in a large family-type event like this,” Harris said of previous alcohol consumption.
Detailed planning is required to host a festival this size. This year, the Blue Plum Festival drew approximately 65,000 people.
“In this particular instance we sat down with Blue Plum organizers, EMS, fire, Downtown Merchants Association and we go through every facet that we feel needs to be addressed,” Harris said.
While fire-eating may not have been on the list of scheduled activities, Police were prepared to handle the situation.
“This is not something we take lightly,” Harris said. “A lot of things come into play and it was all geared toward making the festival a safe place to bring your family.”
Most of the charges at the celebration were the result of misdemeanor offenses including public drunkenness, violations of the special beer permit ordinance, and misdemeanor drug charges.
Harris said that the police reports will be reviewed and turned over to the proper authorities. There will most likely be decisions made about next year’s festival. Although there were a few snafus, Harris said he did not believe any serious problems occurred.