The day the music died

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

The Big Dirty, scheduled for Oct. 17 on private property just west of Viola, was nixed in Mercer County Court today. A temporary restraining order was issued by judge Richard Zimmer, after hearing testimony from two Mercer County officials on why the concert should not take place.

A complaint  and motion was filed in court for a temporary restraining order by Mercer County State’s Attorney  against Dustin Rush and Chad Yingst , who have been advertising “The Big Dirty” with signs and colored flags along Illinois Route 17 on Rush’s property.

“This event is set to start at 7 p.m. Saturday  (Oct. 17). The injunction is saying ‘you can not have this concert,’” Judge Zimmer explained to the two defendants Rush and Yingst.. “I will decide whether to grant the order or not.”

Testifying for the state were Mercer County Zoning Officer Rick Regnier and Mercer County Sheriff Tom Thompson.

Regnier said he has been the county zoning officer for the past seven years. “Mercer County has had a zoning code since 1984."

He said that Dustin Rush and Chad Yingst came to his office on Tuesday this week. Chad asked Regnier about how to get a permit to hold a concert on the property this Saturday.

Regnier explained how the matter would need to come before the zoning board, the county board and the sheriff. He said the property where the concert was to be held was three acres. “He thought  it had already been taken care of through the insurance the property owner had,” said Regnier.

“I said ‘I can’t give you a permit,’” Regnier testified.

He talked to the organizers and explained that this should have come to him at least 60 days prior to the event. He said that a notice would have to be published 15 to 30 days before the zoning board hearing on the matter.

The zoning ordinance states that this type of special use permit would only be granted  in Ag-1 and in order to be Ag-1, you needed to have at least 15 acres. The ordinance also addresses issues like health, parking, water and traffic control.

Regnier referred the organizers to the sheriff to look into this.

Yingst, acting on behalf of the concert promoters, asked Regnier how many special use permits does he hand out a year.

Regnier said, “I’ve done one since I’ve been here.”

Tom Thompson was also called to the stand and sworn in. He testified  he had seen signs up along Hwy 17 outside Viola about the event. He listed a number of his concerns including traffic, noise and parking. “There is one entrance and one exit there on the property,” he said.

The signs also listed “BYOB,” which brought concerns of drinking and driving. “I later talked to one of the promoters ,” he said.

He had worries about underage drinking and people coming out of the concert under the influence. “After talking to the promoters yesterday and today , I was concerned whether there would be enough portable restrooms. There could be up to 200 people there,” said Sheriff Thompson.

He said that Chad Yingst called him and asked what his concerns were. Yingst told him there were seven bands coming, playing for 45 minutes apiece. There would be hay racks up for seating. He said they had 12 people who were going to supply security.

“Did he ever show you his permit?” McHugh asked.

“He stated it had been waived,” said Thompson.

Thompson said he contacted the state’s attorney and Rick Regnier’s office and found out there was no waiver.

“Regnier said he did not have the authority (to waive the permit),” said Thompson.

“I was under the impression that there was some sort of waiver,” said Thompson. But since that was not true, he added, “it would be illegal to hold a concert.”

He also offered apprehension over how late the event would go and whether the county would be dealing with a lot of complaints.

Yingst asked Thompson if, throughout the year, he had ever busted up parties like this.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever had one,” said Thompson.

Yingst then was sworn in and made his case. He told the court he was trying his best to be on the up and up. “We thought the insurance would cover this,” he said.

He said he talked over the process the promoters went through that included first contacting the Viola Police department, being referred to Mercer County Sheriff’s department. Then he went to the state’s attorney’s office, Monday was a holiday and then he came to Aledo on Tuesday to try and settle everything.

He said they put up flags 35 feet away from Hwy 17. They fenced in a parking area off the nearby county road that had a designated exit and entrance. He said he had volunteers who were policing for them. “We’ll have no problem calling the police ourselves,” he said.

He said the signs have been up for about a month and the event  planning began two months ago.

“I’ve held similar events in other counties and never had to get a permit,” said Yingst.

He said he and the property owner "took many steps to try and make this as safe and friendly as possible.”

Judge Zimmer said he sympathized with the event planners, noting that the state’s attorney even said that ‘you were trying to be cooperative.’

“It’s clear you were trying to do things the right way… getting special insurance.”

However he said that absent the proper permit he would have to follow the county zoning ordinance and agree to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the event called “The Big Dirty.”

The restraining order was just a 10-day order and will be revisited on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 1:20 p.m.

After the hearing, Yingst and Rush were feeling pretty disappointed.  They were even thinking about changing the time to earlier on Saturday, perhaps starting the music at 3 p.m. There were seven bands that were scheduled, including the band Yingst is a part of “Ate My Enemy.”

Yingst said “This is the first roadblock we came across.”

Unfortunately this roadblock was a dead end.