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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Texas State invites entire student body to fest limited to 5,000

Ryan Claycamp
Spectators observe the torn down fence at River Fest while an official keeps guard, Thursday, April 11, 2024, at Sewell Park.

Chaos was the word UPD Sergeant Michael Rodriquez used to describe River Fest. After security closed entrances and denied entry at around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, concert-goers did not go home. They instead toppled the chain link fences to get into Sewell Park.

“When [staff] said they were shutting down the entrances, everyone started freaking out,” Gabriel Kohl, a pre-med freshman who witnessed the event, said. “They were pushing toward the gate, and I saw a girl get trampled to the ground.”

Multiple people sustained injuries at the event. Reporters from The University Star personally witnessed at least two concert-goers being loaded into ambulances. In a conversation with an on-scene officer who spoke freely on the request of anonymity, said they “wouldn’t doubt it” if there were more than two.

In the background of the interview audio, an emcee’s voice carried over the conversation.

“‘EMS, can we get a medic to the front please?’,” the voice said.

A photo a reporter from The University Star took at the event shows blood splatter on concrete near the Sewell Park pavilion from a person that jumped over the fence. The reporter said that person had to get carried out on a stretcher.

Texas State Fire Marshal James Frye “personally witnessed” three people getting transported by ambulances, but doesn’t know the exact number transported or the exact number of injuries.

UPD Chief Matthew Carmichael said there were “two injuries sustained.”

Carmichael said there were 5,000-6,000 people in attendance. Rodriquez said there were 20,000-30,000. Texas State Fire Marshal James Frye estimated “less than 10,000.”

In a statement sent to The University Star, Texas State said the max capacity for River Fest was 5,000.

“There’s not a good way to get [an attendance number],” Frye said. “A bunch of people rushed the gates, they lost control… we don’t know exactly what the final attendance numbers were… I’m not sure what happened that triggered the students [to knock down the fences]… It was moving along pretty methodically for several hours.”

Lead singer for Flight by Nothing, Conner Redden, saw the fence break down as soon as his band was about to start its performance on stage. Redden said the band started its set 10 minutes late, and had to stop three to four times to make sure people in the crowd were OK.

“There’s a few different occasions where I saw that there was clearly something going on in the audience [I] would stop the song just to make sure that people were getting out. So at certain points I had to stop. I had to stop us,” Redden said. “I’m not just going to stand here and not act like people need help… there’s nobody there to say something or do something and it’s like, ‘Yeah, we got to stop… and make sure those people are OK.’”

Redden said it was the biggest crowd his band ever played in its seven years.

He said people “were packed in like sardines” and thought the people packed in were “dehydrated” and “overheating,” but attributed that aspect to being just what music festivals are like.

Things like this happen at music festivals. Redden mentioned his own experience of passing out in the crowd at other festivals. He said there can be “a little bit of chaos.” Most Texas State students are no stranger to a wild crowd, whether that be on The Square or at live shows.

Redden even said the event was under control, and UPD Chief Matthew Carmichael echoed similar sentiments the day after the event.

“We had adequate staffing to address the situation,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael cited UPD’s preparedness for the event, and gave the unconfirmed attendance figure of 5,000-6,000 compared to the 20,000-30,000 given to The University Star by Rodriquez on the night of River Fest. Extra patrol was called to help, something that Carmichael said is common for events like this.

But the event where at least two sustained multiple injuries, the event Redden said he had to stop multiple times to check on those in the crowd and the event where EMS was asked to the front of the stage, was sanctioned by Texas State.

This isn’t Astroworld. This isn’t ACL. This isn’t Coachella. Those events have a finite amount of tickets and a finite capacity.

This is Texas State’s River Fest – a free event advertised to over 35,000 students with space for only 5,000. All concert-goers had to do was have their student ID to get wristbands. Carmichael said on three occasions the fences fell down, and on each of those occasions student IDs or wristbands were not necessary.

Inviting the entire campus body to an event limited to 5,000 is irresponsible.

Nobody should have been injured. No gates should have been toppled. All students should’ve felt safe at all times and it’s clear that didn’t happen.

Texas State should’ve taken extra precautions and care to ensure student safety and a safe time for all.

-Carson Weaver is a mass communications senior

The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor in Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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