Teenage fights for a second year in a row have Berkley Days festival organizers evaluating event in 2025

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 23:39:11-04

BERKLEY, Mich. (WXYZ) — Teenagers and threats of fighting on social media may have been what sparked trouble at this year's Berkley Days festival, prompting an early shutdown on Saturday and new rules implemented for Sunday.

Saturday's chaos spilled into the surrounding streets, prompting Berkley Police to call for help from nearby agencies.

"I couldn't believe it was happening," said Nancy Butka, who lives several blocks away from the festival's footprint.

Part of the disbelief that it was happening this year is that fights also marred the festival in 2023.

"I think taking this year off would have been a good idea," said Joseph Demonte, who lives a few houses away from the festival's grounds and remembers the mayhem last year that he and his wife found themselves in the middle of.

"It was scary," he said, describing a stampede of people and chaos as they wondered why it was even happening."

It seems there had been rumblings on social media involving threats at this year's event, prompting some parent to post on Facebook that their children stayed home because of potential problems.

"Three unaccompanied minors from outside the City of Berkley were arrested on charges related to assault and battery," said city officials in a statement Monday, adding that one person was transported to a nearby hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

Bob Skerbeck of Skerbeck Family Carnival said the problem seems to be a trend involving teenagers that festivals are seeing across the country, adding that it involves all demographics.

"I'm passionate about making this work whatever that looks like in the future," Skerbeck said.

City officials declined any on-camera interviews Monday, but, in a lengthy statement, suggested that the future of the festival remains unclear.

"No decision about 2025’s event will be announced at this time," they wrote.

Here's is the city's statement in its entirety:

The 98th annual Berkley Days festival, held from May 9-12, 2024, concluded on a positive note despite a brief disturbance on Saturday evening that caused the event to close early at approximately 7:00 PM.

The festival enjoyed strong attendance on Thursday and Friday with no significant incidents. As the crowd reached maximum capacity around 6:50 PM on Saturday, May 11, a fight started that involved several unaccompanied minors. Berkley’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), event staff, and carnival personnel responded quickly and effectively, shutting down games and rides to manage the situation and ensure the safety of all participants. A thorough check was conducted for injuries, resulting in one juvenile being transported to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries related to the altercation.

Large groups began to exit the festival grounds into the surrounding streets, prompting a coordinated response from Berkley DPS with support from neighboring public safety departments including Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Lathrup Village, Pleasant Ridge, Southfield, Bloomfield Hills, and Bloomfield Township. Crowds were directed to control points at 11 Mile and Coolidge Highway to await transportation and avoid disturbances to surrounding neighborhoods. Two additional juvenile altercations occurred during the dispersal and were quickly contained by officers.

Three unaccompanied minors from outside the City of Berkley were arrested on charges related to assault and battery.

“We’re very appreciative to our mutual aid partners who came out on Saturday to support us in keeping everyone safe and handling the situation quickly,” said Berkley’s Director of Public Safety, Matt Koehn, “In addition to onsite support from eight of our neighboring police and public safety departments, officers from Beverly Hills were on standby to support our city in the event of police and fire calls. We’re fortunate to have such a strong support system throughout our surrounding communities.”

All safety measures were completed quickly and successfully on Saturday, allowing the event to continue on Sunday.

“The safety measures put in place following last year’s event allowed us to manage Saturday’s incident to the best of our ability,” said Berkley DPS Lieutenant Andrew Hadfield, “Our action plan was informed by a year’s worth of research and planning, following best practices set by surrounding communities. Our officers really stepped up, volunteering for unscheduled overtime this weekend as support was needed to follow our plans and keep the event safe for all to enjoy.”

The festival concluded smoothly on Sunday, May 12, after updated rules were put in place that enhanced the safety and enjoyment of all attendees. New rules included a requirement that all minors be accompanied by an adult over 21, with the festival closing at 4 PM instead of 6 PM.

“On behalf of the City of Berkley, I’d like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to our community for your cooperation, support, and understanding as we do our due diligence to evaluate the appropriate way to move forward next year,” said Berkley Mayor, Bridget Dean, “The vast majority of attendees came out to celebrate the start of summer with this time-honored Berkley tradition, and I’m thankful to our public safety officers from within and outside of Berkley and the Berkley Days volunteer committee for acting quickly to keep everyone safe so the event could continue on Sunday.”

No decision about 2025’s event will be announced at this time.

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