Rant and rave

January 04, 1994

When we heard a "rave" was going to be held at the Timonium Fairgrounds on New Year's Eve, attracting 2,500 young people from up and down the East Coast to an all-night dance party, the words "prayer vigil" didn't leap to mind. What did come to mind was more on the order of "Pity the folks who live near the fairgrounds."

Well, the event came and went and reports of its impact were as gelatinous as your average rave dance. The fairgrounds management, which earned $2,000 for renting the grounds, felt the event caused no more havoc and trash than your average bull roast. The Baltimore County police didn't report any criminal activity, and a county councilman who represents the area received no complaints from residents. But Michael Gimbel, the director of the county's substance abuse office, contends the party was fraught with drinking and drug abuse. And County Executive Roger B. Hayden has called for an investigation by the county police and state's attorney's office.

Whether one believes last weekend's rave represented Gomorra come to Timonium or simply "Generation X" celebrating the New Year in its own unique way, one thing is clear: Baltimore County got off lucky. Staff writer Melody Simmons, who visited the rave, noted that with 2,000 people dancing in near-total darkness, had a fire broken out, a stadium-like trampling would have ensued. Or had someone overdosed on drugs in the cavernous Cow Palace, they might not have been discovered until someone swept up the next afternoon.

It is incumbent upon the board of directors of the fairgrounds, normally considered a conservative institution and home to the Maryland State Fair, to review whether it should be hosting such events. The county government too must re-examine its actions; it can't issue an events permit and then express surprise that a rave is being held.

As the Hayden administration tries to retrace the rave dance steps, however, it should also keep in mind that the community can't grouse about teen-agers and young adults hanging on street corners if it offers them no alternative. If booze bottles in the parking lot are grounds for scuttling any future events, you might as well cancel every high school basketball game in the county, too.

The county at least doesn't have to worry about a repeat rave at the fairgrounds next New Year's Eve; the management has decided to restore the traditional holiday week off for its maintenance staff. As for raves the rest of the year, any events billed as nonalcoholic must be nonalcoholic -- and nonchalant security at the door won't suffice.

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