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Bridgman Street Dance Festival marred by thefts, car break-ins, assault

BRIDGMAN, Mich. -- A local festival that's been going strong for years had some major problems this past weekend.

We learned there were several thefts, car break-ins, and even an assault.

We went to Lake Street in Bridgman where the festival clean-up wrapped up Monday afternoon.

A man who works for the city didn't want to go on camera, but he did allow us to interview him by using his voice. He said, "The Street Dance seems to be getting more and more out of hand. There's more and more underage drinking going on and their (the fire department's) job is to push as much alcohol through people as they can."

He said he wasn't surprised to hear about the assault that happened outside the Speedway Gas Station around 11:40 Saturday night, about a 1/2 block away from the festival. He told ABC 57, "they had a big fight last year and this year they had another big fight."

Ted Post the Bridgman Police Chief said, "unfortunately when you have a beer tent, people tend to drink too much and we feel a lot of this was due to the excessive drinking by the parties involved." 

Chief Post said 18-year-old Jordan Smith from Stevensville, and his friend ended up assaulting a total stranger in the Speedway parking lot. Smith is now housed in the Berrien County Jail on assault charges, as for his friend, police are still looking for him and his name.

Chief Post said, the stranger that Smith assaulted just walked away from being in a verbal argument with his girl friend. Post said, the man who is 28-year-old and from St. Joseph, walked onto the Speedway property and that's when Smith and his friend physically attacked him.

According to Chief Post the man and his girl friend admit they were both drinking heavily at the Street Dance tent party and he was walking to Speedway to catch a cab he called. 

"Upon arrival, officers found the subject assaulted, laying on the ground and he appeared to have head injuries," said Chief Post.

The Bridgman Assistant Fire Chief Joel Buist said the festival is the department's only money maker all year. "We usually go through 50 kegs, usually we have good turn out and good luck," he said.

Meanwhile Bridgman resident Julie Pyburn said she is worried about the festival violence because her car was parked down the street while she and her sister were having a blast inside the tent. Pyburn said, "we park down there and I don't want my car broken into."

24 year old Phillip Beltz attended the festival and said he heard about the fight taking place on Saturday night. He enjoyed the festival because he said, "it's like a high school reunion for a lot of people, because you don't see everyone every year." 

Buist told ABC 57 the Fire Department and the city plan the festival each year, and they contract is the Bridgman Police Department and they also bring in the Berrien County Reserve Unit as well. The officers ID people at the tents entrance to make sure they are 21 and they get a wrist band to wear that shows bartenders they are 21 years of age. 

Buist said, "we are already talking about how we can make it better and help out for next year."







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