Bad karma strikes Ashland organizers of New Age festival

Aseries of snafus around a five-day music, art and New Age festival near Redding, Calif., apparently torpedoed its ticket sales, left vendors unpaid and sent organizer Mystic Garden Party of Ashland scrambling to cover about $200,000 in debts.

The fourth annual Mystic Garden Party, held July 21-26 in Manton and featuring many music acts, including the noted Michael Franti and Spearhead, originally was slated to be on private land near Flournoy.

Mystic Garden Party Chief Financial Officer Jason Gallagher said Tehama County planning officials e-mailed the go-ahead months before the event, but denied the permit a week before, then told news media it was canceled, resulting in a big drop in ticket sales and inability to pay vendors.

Gallagher said Mystic Garden Party expected more than 3,000 people but only 1,000 came to a hastily arranged new site at Water Wheel Park in Manton. He has retained a lawyer and said he plans to sue Tehama County for losses and damages.

"They gave permission, then they got nervous and canceled it, after we'd invested a tremendous amount," Gallagher said. "We are in deep."

Tehama County planner Bob Halpin said he denied the permit because a planned all-night party was not allowed by ordinances and because a festival was not a permitted use on land zoned for exclusive agricultural use.

"If they want to sue, we're ready for them," said Halpin. "We did everything in a timely manner and we told them months before that they needed a special permit. They applied two weeks before the event and we denied it the Monday before. He left himself with short notice and not much room to wiggle. He told us it would be a bunch of people and some bands, not 2,500 people. He misrepresented himself."

Gallagher said, "The county told the media the event was canceled. Them doing that caused loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in ticket sales in the final days, which are always the largest days for ticket sales ramping up. We'd have been fine with that massive influx and would have been able to cover all obligations."

Halpin said he told the media the permit was not granted but denied announcing the festival was canceled.

Mystic Garden Party owner Phil Lindsey said he and Gallagher are working to get loans for payment to all vendors as soon as possible.

Gallagher called the debt "$200,000-ish." One vendor, John Ross of Chico, said he was given a bad check and is out $6,417 for temporary fencing. He and other vendors — for such services as security, stage building, lighting and sanitation — have given their invoices to Water Wheel Park owner Cindy Collins, who is handling the matter.

Lindsey said Collins has given Mystic Garden Party a deadline of six months to cover vendor payments before the matter is given to the district attorney. Ross, however, said the deadline was today. Collins could not be reached for comment.

Lindsey said, "There was no intentional bad check writing and we have no intent to file bankruptcy. We intend to raise the funds and live on. I'm confident we can make it happen."

In the weeks before the event, Tehama County supervisors realized their special events ordinance was unconstitutional as it specifically banned rock music, said Halpin, so they adopted a new, less restrictive ordinance regulating just health and safety for events drawing more than 500 people.

Gallagher said Mystic Garden Party was operating under the assumption that the old ordinance was unconstitutional and would not govern its event.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

Share This Story