Officials still back Automotion, but want to ensure law and order

February 15, 2017 GMT

Automotion Festival Weekend is here to stay, and Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells intend to be ready for it.

That was the message delivered loud and clear by municipal and police officials in both the village and the city Monday, as they continued to grapple with how best to manage the influx of thousands of visitors — most of them in automobiles — for the extremely popular springtime festival.

As Lake Delton’s village board indicated its commitment to working with organizers of the ancillary automotive events that accompany the two-day classic car show at Noah’s Ark over the weekend prior to Memorial Day in May, law enforcement officials from both communitiesindicated their commitment to doing everything within their powerto address the traffic challenges and some of the unruly behavior that accompanied last year’s event the weekend-long influx of car-lovers in 2016.

The police departments that serve Lake Delton and the Dells both plan to bring in more officers during this year’s festival weekend, and are tapping Wisconsin Emergency Management — the state-operated, emergency support organization — for assistance.


Lake Delton police expect to add 20 more officers to a weekend police presence that is expected to swell to 50 overall in Lake Delton, Police Chief Dan Hardman said following the twice-monthly board meeting Monday at the Kay C. Mackesey Administration Building.

Wisconsin Dells, meanwhile, plans to bring on 10 more officers, according to Dells Police Lt. Perry Mayer.

“We’re not against the event, and I don’t want to portray that we are, we just want it done correctly,” said Hardman, who indicated that the department plans to “do more selective enforcement” of traffic violations and other unlawful behaviors over that weekend, when more than 100,000 people historically roll into town.

“The tickets are going to be written, and if that doesn’t get it then maybe we need to be more stringent beyond that,” said Mayer following Monday’s meeting of the Dells Common Council. “It’s a matter of public safety.”

The 2016 event was characterized by an unprecedented influx of both automobiles and unruliness by some of their drivers and passengers.

Lake Delton police issued 440 citations and issued “a minimum” of 2,000 warnings during the weekend, and complaints to the Wisconsin Dells police department were up by a reported 50 percent, along with a marked increase in citations issued, ordinance violations and written warnings.

Lake Delton’s board on Monday considered permits for two of the aforementioned automobile rallies that have accompanied the main event in recent years — one at Bobbers Island Grill and the other at Wintergreen Resort — and voted to pass the former while tabling the latter until parking and traffic issues can be addressed.


But as opinions regarding the influx and accompanying traffic jams were voiced on both sides of the issue, the board and Hardman indicated their inclination to keep the springtime event going.

“Any of these events that allow (participants) to get off the street and go, we support. It’s not that we’re against it, it’s how they’re going about it,” Hardman said. “Once we get the issues resolved, I don’t see why they should not get a permit,” Hardman said.

“Last year was just the perfect storm, you couldn’t ask for three nicer days for a car show,” said Jeff Morris, Lake Delton trustee and owner of Bobbers Island Grill. “We don’t get that every year.”