LJT security team will be all “eyes and ears” for event-goers in wake of recent tragedies

By Quanecia Fraser

Executive Editor  

The security team for the Larry Joe Taylor Texas Music Festival says they will work hard to keep event-goers safe, especially with recent mass shootings and bombings.

Ariel Henderson is a junior at Tarleton State University majoring in agricultural education with a minor in animal science. She says she is “definitely excited” for the Larry Joe Taylor Texas Music Festival, also known as LJT.

“During the spring, the only thing I really have to look forward to LJT,” Henderson said. “It’s just kind of like, my, second Christmas in the spring.”

LJT is a country music festival held at Melody Mountain Ranch  on the outskirts of Stephenville. The festival brings in an average of 12–15,000 people each day, according to Zack Taylor, festival promoter and co-owner of Melody Mountain Ranch Inc.

“I feel like people are scared to mess with people at LJT because they know they’re a bunch of rednecks and all of them probably have guns,” said Henderson. But she added that she is still very concerned about her safety.

“That is something that is in the back of my mind, just kind of like a ‘what if’ because I’m sure all the people at the (Las Vegas) concert, they didn’t think it was going to be them. All the people that went to school (Parkland High School) that day, they didn’t think it was going to be them…,” she said

Henderson said that based on her own experience at LJT, coolers and backpacks were not checked every single time they are brought in. She recalled finding glass bottles at Melody Mountain Ranch despite them being prohibited from the festival. Because of this, Henderson said she worries that someone could easily “slip” in something dangerous to the festival.

“If you think about all the things people use to party with that they’re not supposed to have– just as simple as glass bottles that end up out there when there’s no glass bottles (allowed),” she said.

Texan News spoke to the security team for the festival which included Taylor, Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates and Stephenville Police Lt. Don Miller. Taylor insisted that coolers will be checked each time they are brought into Melody Mountain Ranch and that the security team will check those coolers for more than just glass bottles.

“There’s four entrances into the main stage area. Every entrance has a security n that will make you open up your cooler, so every cooler is opened up. Of course, they’re looking for glass bottles, but that’s not all they’re looking for,” said Taylor. “They’re looking for anything—whether it be a rifle inside the cooler, they’re looking for that.”

Taylor said “That’s stuff that we’ve had to kind of be ahead of the game (for) with everything that’s going on around the world. We’ve got to be thinking about different ways that people could possibly get that (an object such as a rifle) in.” He added: “I think most people are genuine people but there’s that one person out there (who) may not be and that’s what we’re trying to find.”

The security team has also gone through active shooter training and will work with the Department of Homeland Security for the festival. Taylor and Miller explained that LJT is given a SEAR (Special Events Assessment Rating) from the Department of Homeland Security.

Miller explained that “any large event anywhere in the United States of America where there is the potential for any kind of a disaster—natural or manmade” is given a rating by the federal government. He added that the LJT music festival has “basically the same rating” as events held at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Miller said that if a disaster were to occur, then the federal government would quickly provide resources to the Sheriff’s Department such as shelter, “depending on what kind of disaster we have should we have one.” He added “Naturally, we’re not expecting anything but you can never tell.”

Miller didn’t “want to give a whole lot away” but he did mention that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents will also patrol the festival with bomb dogs.

According to Coates, event-goers are prohibited from carrying “concealed or open weapons” into Melody Mountain Ranch.

Taylor said the security team doesn’t check to see if event-goers are carrying weapons. However, he did say that the security team has discussed implementing metal detectors for future festivals. But he said that metal detectors would make it more difficult for guests to bring in their own alcohol, as LJT is a ‘BYOB’ type of event.

“We have talked about it. (We’re) kind of trying to figure out what direction to go in and if it’s possible to do with BYOB. But right now, it’s pretty hard to do both (metal detectors and BYOB) and be efficient at it,” said Taylor.

Coates said that security at LJT is an “entire year-long process” and that the security team does “a lot of preparation” to ensure that festival-goers stay safe.

Taylor mentioned that the Larry Joe Taylor festival partners with Tarleton counseling for the #SafeLJT campaign. Taylor says that he encourages event-goers to have a buddy system.

Most importantly, Taylor says he would advise this to Tarleton students who plan to go to LJT: “If you see something, say something.”

“We want people to be aware of their surroundings just like with any (other) event. You have to in this day in age. You just have to be aware,” said Taylor.

Taylor stressed that event-goers should notify the security team if they see suspicious or dangerous activity, even if the activity turns out to not be suspicious or dangerous.

He added: “The people that come are here to have a good time and were here to watch and be their eyes and ears.”

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