The executive in charge of the state-owned Cow Palace says he will propose improvements to the facility’s procedures after drug-related ambulance calls marred another recent event there.

CEO Joe Barkett takes issue with the notion that the venue in Daly City was not sufficiently prepared for last week’s Subsonic Halloween 2010 Spookfest, during which ambulances rushed several attendees to Peninsula hospitals for suspected overdoses.

“I believe the Cow Palace has the ability to choose to not have an event that it thinks does not meet the overall mission of the organization,” Barkett said. 

“This one’s a tough one.”

That’s because the Spookfest was held at the Cow Palace last year, produced by mega-event producer LiveNation, with no problems.  LiveNation presented the event alongside local CBS-owned radio station Live 105.

According to a statement, 12,679 people attended the Spookfest. On the advice of Daly City Police, 21 police officers were on hand to keep the peace, paid for by LiveNation.  Nearly 90 security personnel and 39 medical personnel were also there.  The event was, of course, billed as a drug-free event, and the statement says attendees were searched before entering.  Still, Barkett acknowledges that something has to change.

“Frankly the issue here, that we as an organization are going to review and contemplate and take very seriously going forward,” Barkett said, “is whether or not, regardless of the amount of security and preventive measures, whether or not it is possible to have any (amount) of security that can prevent a few people out of several thousand from doing damage to themselves. 

“And if it is impossible,” Barkett continued, “for us to prevent every individual from that consequence, then what, as a facility, do we do about that?”

The Cow Palace is owned by the state’s Division of Fairs and Expositions, but governed locally and led by a Board of Directors. Barkett says he will take this matter to those directors, with an analysis and suggestions for improvements, at their meeting on November 16th at 9:30am.

The venue hosts all kinds of events, but its resident tenants are fairly non-controversial in terms of substance abuse: Grand National Rodeo, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, the San Francisco Sport & Boat Show, the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show, and Disney on Ice. Barkett says there aren’t any events like the Spookfest, or like the rave that’s blamed for one young man’s overdose death earlier this year.

At the moment Barkett is out of town, meeting with other Agriculture and fair management officials from all over the state in Sacramento. They’re not specifically meeting about this, he says, but he has perceived an increase in these kinds of incidents. Barkett has managed the Cow Palace for the last two years, and has managed other fairs including the state fair in Sacramento.  In that time, he says he’s seen a rise in events that used to be perfectly benign, turning unexpectedly ugly.

“There are definitely societal changes that we are dealing with here.” he suggests. “And we have to deal with them.”

Cow Palace to Review Procedures After Drug Incidents 3 November,2010Joshua Johnson

  • maria

    How can they say that all the police were there in the cow palace and still put the blame ON THE SITE not the ones who put these events on? I am confused on why the ones who arrange such events are not to blame when the only reason for all these RAVES is to take Ectasy or there would not be such an attraction.Rock concerts never had so many fatalities or had people fighting for their lives,if you go to a RAVE sober it lacks the effect completely then if you go on E. They all know what happens at Raves and still have them! how do we stop the RAVES not the cow Palace haveing events?


Joshua Johnson

Joshua Johnson is the creator and host of Truth Be Told, a special series on race from KQED and PRI. Prior to creating the show, he served as the station’s morning news anchor for five-and-half years.

Prior to joining KQED, Joshua spent six years as an anchor/reporter for WLRN Miami Herald News. He’s a native of South Florida, with degrees from the University of Miami. His reporting and newscasting have won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association and from the National Association of Black Journalists. Joshua is also active in his union, SAG-AFTRA. He lives in San Francisco.

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