BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Ellen Finn was excited to be among the more than 13,500 fans earlier this month to see country star Jason Aldean at Darien Lake.
Her friend grabbed the tickets, so she volunteered to be the night’s designated driver. But shortly into the concert, things turned bad for the 22 year-old from Lockport.
“We were walking through the lawn to meet up with my friends again, and I bumped into a girl and she turned around and she and her friends came swinging,” Finn said. “From what I was told, I was knocked to the ground. I was knocked unconscious, and the next thing that I remember is that a girl is dragging me on the ground by my hair.”
Ellen ended up in the ER with a concussion. But not before she realized her world had grown quiet.
Ellen has needed hearing aids her whole life. But the ones she was wearing that night were ripped from her head.
“It’s not something that I can go without,” she said of her hearing aids. “It’s not like reading glasses where I can technically get by without them. It would make it very difficult to get through my jobs or hear anything in school. I kind of depend on them.”
Four days earlier at the Florida Georgia Line concert, a female fan was arrested after biting and kicking a Genesee County Sheriff’s deputy — the fourth such incident that night.
While Ellen’s story isn’t unique, the rates of violence — or even arrests — at Darien Lake this summer are on par with what authorities have seen in the past.
“I think all in all, I think it’s been a pretty normal year,” said Gordon Dibble, road patrol chief for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. “We work hard in trying to work hard with Live Nation and Darien Lake. There are many partners involved here.”
Dibble said deputies are also trained to be more patient at venues like concerts.
“We spend an inordinate amount of time with these people, trying to talk to them, trying to get them into the hands of friends, or maybe relatives, or people they came with to try to get out of there safely,” he said. “That’s our first goal. Obviously, if they’ve committed a crime, we’re going to have to investigate that and maybe make the arrest.”
Since 2012, security has been increased at Darien Lake. The park implemented a zero-tolerance underage alcohol policy. They increased manpower inside and outside the Performing Arts Center.
The park and promoters spend nearly a half million dollars on security for the concerts alone — more on security park-wide — and more than 130 security officers were working inside the venue on Aug. 13, according to officials Darien Lake.
“I really think it’s a well orchestrated operation out there,” Dibble said. “People are going to run into problems. People are going to do things they really shouldn’t do. And unfortunately, some people are going to get arrested. That’s going to happen. But it’s a small percentage.”
It’s a small percentage considering the nearly 250,000 who showed up for 18 concerts this summer.
Meanwhile, Ellen is out of luck. With no one to charge for her assault, she’ll have to pay out of pocket for new hearing aids, which range from $3,500 to $4,500, something she says will take her — as a student with two part-time jobs — as much as a year to raise.