Wild Weekend Wets Clearwater

More than 12,000 hip-hop music fans flocked to downtown to catch performances by Waka Floka Flame, Wale, DMX and myriad other performers for the sold out Wild Splash music festival at Coachman Park Saturday.

Skyler Suttles and Jessica Chandler came down from north Pinellas County in hopes of snagging a ticket to their first Wild Splash.

The hip hop festival sold out earlier in the week and since they waited until the last minute, they were not able to score a $25 ticket.

"This was going to be our first one," Suttles, 17, said. "The tickets are really, hard to find."

Suttles said they did not have, and would not have paid, the $75 some people were selling tickets for on the streets near Coachman Park.

So, by the early afternoon the two were leaving downtown to head out to the beach. Anyway, Suttles said, they already have seen the artists they were interested in perform including Childish Gambino and Machine Gun Kelly.

Suttles advice for next year:

“Plan ahead... It takes a lot of pre-planning.”

Scientology Protesters 

Alex Hageli was not downtown for the music.

It was around noon Saturday and Hageli held signs and wore a Guy Fawkes mask (similar to the character in the movie V for Vendetta) in the shadows of the Fort Harrison and Flag building at Court Street and Ft. Harrison Avenue.

This is the second year he has come to Clearwater from Chicago to protest the Church of Scientology birthday celebration of founder L. Ron Hubbard. Hageli, a lawyer, said he made friends and had so much fun the year earlier protesting at the birthday party he wanted to come back.

This year Hageli and his Anonymous friends, were being taped by a student film crew from Florida State University. He said they would be around Clearwater holding signs downtown and near  too. 

While Hageli comes to Florida a few times a year to protest, he keeps the mask and signs at friends’ homes, it is much easier to travel that way.

“I don’t want to have to explain that to a TSA guy,” Hageli said.

Wild Business Plans

With thousands of people coming to the streets of Clearwater businesses did not necessarily roll out the red carpet. They did not pick up the welcome mats either.

At Krave, which will soon be renamed Metro as Sean Ford takes over for the former owners, they set up some tables, coolers and a bar and sold drinks, Jell-O shots and special priced fare to fans waiting to head to .

They thought about having a DJ and promoting the spot, but Ford said he would take a more laid back approach as he is renovating the menu and interior of the restaurant.

“Our plan is we are trying to do stuff outside all the time,” Ford said. “We’re looking to build up downtown.”

Nearby, Duncan Sigurdsson, general manager at , which is about two blocks away from Coachman Park, said there wasn’t a noticeable uptick there, minus the traffic coming in asking to use the bathroom.

“I don’t know if organic food is what people (who are going to Wild Splash) are going for,” Sigurdsson said.

Police Patrol

Plenty of Clearwater Police officers, with help from other agencies including Largo's anti-gang unit, were ready for just about anything as more than 12,000 people, many fueled with booze or blunts came to Coachman Park to catch performances by rap artists incuding Waka Floka Flame, Wale and DMX.  

There were five fights, three missing juveniles, several trespass warrants issued for fans jumping the fence surrounding the waterfront park, and a variety of other public safety issues, city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli said.

"Police coordinated Emergency Response Team officers, Anti-Crime officers, Largo anti-gang unit, and patrol officers that maintained the peace in the downtown areas outside of the venue by conducting preventative patrols and executing a traffic plan as the event was ending," Castelli said.

Officers also responded to three cases in the downtown area resulting in arrests for drugs, firearms, aggravated assault and traffic charges, Castelli said.

Clearwater Fire and Rescue were also ready for duty. There were about 60 medical calls for service resulting in approximately five transports, Castelli said.

But it was not just Coachman Park and downtown that got police attention.

A deployment plan was put together in an effort to disperse a crowd of nearly 300 gathered between La Salle and Engman Streets in the North Greenwood community a little after 10 p.m.

It took officers about an hour to get the area back to normal, officials said.


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