POLAND — The way Ernestine Albert sees it, it's a lot of fuss about nothing.
A music festival is coming to her campground in July and she expects it to be a wholesome good time.
"It's not a hemp fest, let's put it that way," said Albert, owner of Hemlocks Campground on Larch Drive. "This is a family campground."
The Big Dig Music and Mining Festival is slated to run the weekend of July 19-21, and yes, you read that right. The festival, to be held near a dozen mineral-rich quarries, will feature experts in mining. They'll take people out to look for gems and teach them how to dig and polish their rocks.
"They'll have a little bit of everything," Albert said.
Somewhere near 30 bands are expected to perform. There will be food and dancing, yoga and a range of other activities, Albert said.
Just summertime fun, nothing more, nothing less.
Albert may be right about that, but confusion has reigned since rumors of the festival began to circulate. Some had heard that in excess of a thousand people are expected and that many have already paid for tickets. There was talk that the festival had already been denied permits in other towns.
Poland town officials have since gotten the skinny on exactly what is expected to go down at the festival.
On Wednesday, festival organizer Mike Green met with Poland Code Enforcement Officer Nick Adams. According to Adams, Hemlocks Campground has 68 camp sites. Doing the math, he figures the capacity for the grounds is around 178. That means that Green and his people have to secure the proper permits.
Green believes he is exempt. Town officials see it another way.
"I told him I determined his proposal was not exempt from the town's mass-gathering ordinance and that he should apply for a permit," Adams said.
People who have purchased VIP tickets for the event, estimated at 100, will likely be using the campground. Others would be in a field on an adjacent parcel, an area estimated at between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet.
"If they plan to be tenting in the field, they would require a state permit, as well," Adams said. "They will need a state license if there is to be camping out."
The reason permits are needed, Adams said, comes down to concerns about the well-being of that many people gathered in one place.
"He said they have 575 people, so far," Adams said. "We have some health and safety issues. They will have to have plenty of Port-a-Potties — the campground is right on the lake.
"Parking could be a problem," Adams went on. "I don't know where they will park. You have to be concerned with fire protection, getting equipment in and out."
Adams insisted the town of Poland is not trying to keep Green and his festival away. Although there are almost always disputes among town officials, residents and festival organizers when summer comes around in Maine, Adams said this is just a matter of getting things done right.
"I told him we don't care whether other towns have turned you down. You meet our requirements and you get your permit," Adams said. "As long as you meet with all the requirements, we're fine; you're fine."
Adams said he advised Green to apply immediately for a mass-gathering permit, which would get him in line to apply for a permit at least 21 days before the event. He told Green he would have to meet with the Board of Selectmen, which meets again July 2.
According to Town Manager Rosemary Roy, requests such as that from the Big Dig have become more frequent in recent years, meaning it also may be time to take a look at how the town deals with those requests.
"We adopted our mass-gathering ordinance five years ago," Roy said. "It's beginning to be used more and more. It probably is time to take a look at it, make sure it is doing its job."
Red tape aside, festival organizers said Thursday they are confident the event will go off as planned. On the Big Dig Facebook page, many activities are spelled out in bright letters: Over 30 bands and deejays on two stages. Mining adventure trips, crystal cutting, polishing and jewelry making workshops. A wellness tent, swimming, canoeing, daily meditation, a political action tent and a place where food donations can be dropped off. Organizers expect to donate to an area food pantry when all is said and done.