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Torch Lake residents grateful for calmer crowds

Reese Lassman

You probably remember the photos from last year’s Sandbar Bash and the stories: 10,000 people on the lake, trash in the water, higher E. coli levels, underage drinking, trespassing and loud music.

"It was really, really obtrusive and obnoxious last year," says Sue Kelly. "I was out on my patio vibrating. We have not had that this year."

Kelly and other residents around Torch Lake were happier this Fourth of July weekend. She lives a few blocks from the lake. She’s also a board member of the Torch Lake Protection Alliance, a group focused on preserving and protecting the lake. 

TLPA won a lawsuit last month that prohibited three party promoters –who were considered responsible for the wild crowds last year– from showing up this year. Greg Payne, president of TLPA, thinks the lawsuit made a difference. Here’s what he saw from his house on the lake on Monday:

"The sandbar is busy. But the overall attitude of the crowd is much more relaxed. It isn’t spun up kind of like a frat party – a rave kind of an attitude."

Kelly agrees. She says even though the crowd looks smaller than last year, there are still a lot of people out on the sandbar enjoying themselves. This year, though, they're being more respectful, letting Torch Lake property owners enjoy themselves too.


Credit Reese Lassman
Sunset over Torch Lake last weekend.

Kelly figures people are probably better behaved because there are more police at the lake this year. The Michigan State Police quadrupled their presence, and Kalkaska and Antrim sheriff's offices sent more deputies.

"We just all are so appreciative knowing that those law enforcement officials gave up their holiday so we can have ours," Kelly says.

Greg Payne says if this strong police presence continues, "then the behavior that was demonstrated last year just isn’t going to be accepted, and it will drift away to some place else."

It already has started drifting someplace else. According to Facebook, DJ Fade –one of the party promoters banned from Torch Lake after last year's Bash– organized a similar party at a lake in Midland County this weekend.  

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.