The St. Francois County Commission approved a request made by Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin at its Tuesday morning meeting to file a temporary restraining order on behalf of the county to stop event planners from holding the third annual Cosmic Reunion at Astral Valley set for the Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28.

Astral Valley is a private property located in the north end of St. Francois County.

Mahurin said he is awaiting additional names to add to the restraining order and expects to file it as early as Thursday.

The Steve Miller Band is the headliner for this year's event. The event brings in a crowd of thousands each year.

Appealing to the county commissioners, Mahurin said, "Basically what this entails is that at the north end of the county there is a piece of property that is being used for — by statute, you'd call them festivals — and basically, they're rave parties. Something akin to a small Woodstock."

He explained that his reasoning for filing the restraining order was "multifaceted."

"I'm getting inundated with a lot of calls from various individuals on the north end of the county," Mahurin said. "Ste. Genevieve County is getting calls. Jefferson County is getting calls. This property is being used to put on these parties for days upon end and they're playing loud music, the amount of people is in the thousands.

"Also, we have Statute 316.150. It defines what a festival is and I went through that with this possible petition to file. The other thing is — and I actually had one of my clerks call — I don't believe that they have filed a request to hold a festival with the county clerk. Is that right, Mark? They haven't filed anything with you?"

County Clerk Mark Hedrick, who attends all county commission meetings, indicated festival planners had not filed any request with his office.

Mahurin continued, "The statute says they have to file that 60 days in advance of having any of these festivals and of course then it allows the county commission to hear the possibility of having these — one, as for health and safety, along with the possible public nuisance.

"Now, there is a case from 1958 that defines what public nuisance is and it's never been overturned as far as I can find, so I think we're on good footing with the law. I also know that the sheriffs had a lot of phone calls. We've had law enforcement — the highway patrol, county, other counties have called us, municipalities and, of course, then, a lot of concerned citizens.

"So, the fact that they have not complied with the statutes and filed the appropriate request for license to have these festivals, the fact that they haven't applied for anything statutorily, the fact that we have an overabundance of people coming in ...

"The other problem that we have is that there's going to be — in the years past when they've had these festivals — there's a substantial amount of drug use. We're seeing things like Ecstasy; date rape drugs; of course, marijuana; a lot of party drugs that we're seeing in this area. And then of course there's been accidents — that is my understanding, as well — some traffic accidents."

Mahurin described the public nuisance associated with the event as being "on many different levels."

"And I will tell you that in 2001, when Judge [Wendy Wexler] Horn was the prosecuting attorney, she filed a similar case to stop similar rave festivals," he said. "Of course, that was good. It was upheld and I believe that was made a permanent injunction."

Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher asked Mahurin, "Is that a different location or the same one?

He responded, "It was a different location, different individuals. The people I have listed there right now are the people we know are involved. Of course, there is a lot of different ones 'doing business as' and then there are several individuals that are involved, as well.

"There may be one or two other names that the highway patrol is getting me later today that we'll have to add just for service, but these are the individuals that are primary actors with regards to the actual Cosmic Family Reunion at Astral Valley."

Mahurin reiterated that his request for permission to file a restraining order, while made on behalf of the people of St. Francois County, would also be "protecting the inhabitants of the region," including those living in Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties.

Sheriff Dan Bullock expressed his agreement with Mahurin's seeking of a temporary restraining order against the event planners.

"As Jerrod has said, we have been inundated with calls from people, citizens, in Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois County asking what the county commission can do. That's kinda what spurred us to look into this. I know that they do not have restroom facilities to handle that many people up there. It's mostly out in the woods and in streams.

"Also, the people that live on this one-lane road, when this event gets started, the road is blocked. People can't come and go from the property. I'd like to ask that the prosecutor be allowed to file this injunction and maybe we can get something done."

Commissioner Patrick Mullins recalled a story that appeared in the July 23, 2016 issue of the Daily Journal regarding neighbors' complaints about noise and other concerns connected with the Cosmic Family Reunion. After reading the article aloud, Mullins said, "This is an ongoing issue and I support [the filing of a temporary injunction] wholeheartedly. I'll even be happy to make the motion that we support this."

In seconding the motion, Commissioner Gay Wilkinson said, "I remember testimony or concerns voiced that even the livestock would get to the far ends of their fields just to get away from it as much as they could. So, it affects everything."

The commission voted unanimously to allow Mahurin to file a temporary restraining order against the Cosmic Family Reunion.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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