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Music festival tied to drug deaths opens in Vegas

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Carnival goers dance at the main stage as "Manufactured Superstarts" performs at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Friday, June 24, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Carnival goers react to Tiesto playing on the main stage at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Saturday, June 25, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A couple shares a quiet moment together away from the acts playing on the surrounding stages at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Saturday, June 25, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Carnival goers dance at at the main stage during the Electric Daisy Carnival, Friday, June 24, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Carnival goers react to Tiesto playing on the main stage at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Saturday, June 25, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Las Vegas Metropolitan police officers watch carnival goers as fireworks explode in the early morning sky at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Saturday, June 25, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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LAS VEGAS >> At least five people were taken to area hospitals and 300 were treated for medical care after a huge electronic music festival opened in the Nevada desert.

The Electric Daisy Carnival kicked off Friday for a weekend of outdoor music and dancing in Las Vegas with 26 carnival rides, kaleidoscope sculptures, pyrotechnic displays, a pulsating soundtrack and a reputation for heavy drug use that it hoped to live down. The maze of overstimulation unfolded only a week after the touring concert’s Dallas show ended with two drug-related deaths.

Police said Saturday that there had been no fatalities tied to the Sin City festival. There were 21 arrests, mostly related to drugs. Police removed 31 people from the party.

The annual million-dollar extravaganza was moved to Las Vegas after it was banned in Los Angeles following the death of a 15-year-old girl during last year’s multi-day event.

Event organizers stressed they didn’t want the drug controversies to overshadow the show’s lineup of electronic music giants, including Tiesto, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia.

For its Sin City debut, organizers transformed the Las Vegas Motor Speedway into a psychedelic playland, crammed with LED screens and booming speakers. Partygoers dressed in sparkly tutus and furry boots. Some wore only their underwear.

The festival swayed to the beats of DJs from across the globe. More than 100 acts are scheduled to jam out during the hours-long concerts poised to end at 6 a.m. Monday.

"It’s a very good time for dance music in the states right now," said Axwell, a DJ with event headliner Swedish House Mafia. "I think people are ready for it."

Identification cards were scanned at the door to ensure concertgoers were at least 18. Potential drug paraphernalia, including pacifiers, eye drops, stuffed animals, and food and drinks, were prohibited, and attendees were patted down at the door to ensure the policy was followed. Inside, 80 health care professionals and 14 ambulances responded to emergencies, and more than 1,000 security guards watched for drug use or violence.

"A lot of planning is going into this event," said Mark Calabrese, operations manager for MedicWest Ambulance in Las Vegas. "To me, it’s not very different from what happens in Las Vegas all the time."

The searches created a bottleneck as attendees impatiently waited to get in.

"This is out of control, there are people everywhere, there is music everywhere," said Ruben Ortiz, 27, a Los Angeles salesmen. "I waited almost two hours to get in. I hope they fix that before Saturday."

Crowds of half-naked teenagers and young adults twirled across the field to thumping beats without incident, while a few others were spotted stumbling as if they were intoxicated or making jokes about sneaking drugs past security.

Amber Garcia, a 19-year-old student who traveled from Denver with a truckload of friends for the concert weekend, pumped her fist in the air and jumped around as Norwegian duo Röyksopp performed on stage. She wore sneakers, a pair of bikini bottoms and a top made of a few strategically placed stickers.

"This is a party and we are here to party," she said.

Promises of iron security at past Electric Daisy Carnival events have sometimes fallen short, to deadly results.

The sold-out festival in Los Angeles had a minimum age requirement of 16 last year when Sasha Rodriquez, 15, was removed to be treated for drug intoxication. Meanwhile, 114 people were arrested for misconduct, drug possession and other charges.

More recently, police are investigating the deaths of two men who allegedly consumed drugs at the one-day Electric Daisy Carnival in Dallas last week.

"The biggest key is to go after it, keep it as clean as possible," said Sean Sansom, the festival’s security director.

This is the first time the multi-day festival will stretch into a third night, and the party unfolded across 1,000 acres, a large area to patrol. Up to 100,000 people are expected to attend each day, compared with roughly 20,000 partygoers at the Dallas concert that resulted in more than two dozen people being treated for drug, alcohol and heat-related problems.

"It gets out of control sometimes when there are a lot of people, and sadly there was a casualty in Dallas and that’s really sad when that happens," said Axwell, who performed during the Dallas and Los Angeles concerts. "It’s always going to be hard when you have thousands of people in the same place and some of them using drugs."

Las Vegas officials have embraced the Electric Daisy Carnival amid record unemployment and depressed tourist spending.

"We are fortunate to be able to bring an event like this to town, that brings out so many," said Chris Powell, president of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "It’s such a job creator."

 

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