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Thumbs Up for X-Fest

Modesto's biggest outdoor music festival has a new fan: City Councilman Will O'Bryant expressed his satisfaction with X-Fest after it was held in downtown Modesto for the eighth time.

Nearly 16,000 people attended this year's X-Fest, watching 40 bands perform on eight stages. And despite slightly more arrests than last year and some stubborn crowds at the night's end, O'Bryant was pleased that organizers and police said X-Fest ran safely and smoothly.

"I'm ecstatic. All the concerns that I had were addressed," O'Bryant said Sunday afternoon. "I think everyone who was involved in the planning of this did a great job."

O'Bryant voted against the festival returning for an eighth year at a City Council meeting in April. Along with Councilwoman Janice Keating, he cited safety concerns and possible hazards that can arise when large crowds mix with heavy drinking.

Though O'Bryant has attended past X-Fests, a minor, last-minute emergency kept him from attending Saturday. But initial reports led him to believe that his concerns — which included properly placed exits, security and access to emergency services — have been addressed.

"Everyone demonstrated no reluctance to address any people's safety," said O'Bryant, a retired Alameda County sheriff's detective. "You can't ask for more than that."

Thirty-two arrests were made during the night, mostly for public intoxication or fighting. This is up from last year, which was estimated at 24. But Modesto police spokesman Sgt. Craig Gundlach attributed the jump to a bigger crowd this year.

More than 120 police officers joined about 200 private security guards to provide security at the show.

Officers faced a potential problem early Sunday while attempting to disperse the crowd after the event ended.

At 1 a.m., anyone who was not in a bar or nightclub was supposed to leave. When crowds refused to leave by 1:30 a.m., officers on horseback, bicycles and in riot helmets started trying to move the crowds.

"When you have over 15,000 people at an event downtown having a great time, no one wants to leave," Gundlach said.

It took until after 2:30 a.m. to clear everyone, and several fights slowed the process. One officer and a police horse were assaulted, though no injuries were reported.

Gundlach said that despite the late-night setback, this year's X-Fest went smoothly.

"I think it has gotten better and better every year," he said. "Look at the fact that we have so many people, and we had alcohol and dancing and nightclubs. Of those people, we arrested 32. It directly reflects the planning and preparation that goes into this event."

Organizer Chris Ricci said this year's X-Fest was the most successful for overall safety. Ricci attributes some of that to the concerns raised at the City Council meeting in April.

"I really noted Councilman O'Bryant's objections," Ricci said. "I challenged myself to prove him wrong. I feel like I did that."

O'Bryant wasn't the only city official who was impressed. Mayor Jim Ridenour attended for the first time Saturday so he could evaluate the event's safety.

Unfortunately, he showed up too late to catch the event he most wanted to see — the motocross racing demonstrations.

"I was amazingly surprised that things were moving and doing as well as they were down there," Ridenour said.

Not everyone declared X-Fest a success. Lorena Loftis owns Deva Cafe on J Street. Deva is not normally open Saturday night, but she stayed open until 1 a.m. in anticipation of steady business.

Instead of serving crowds of customers, Loftis spent much of the evening fielding complaints and trying to keep people from bringing beer and wine into the streets. She said the added business was not worth the hassle.

"It was a stressful thing dealing with all the people, especially after they had been drinking," Loftis said. "It really wasn't what I expected."

Bee staff writer Christopher Caskey can be reached at ccaskey@modbee.com or 238-4537.

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