Bethlehem Police guide on having a safe Musikfest; OR The guide on how to not get arrested

Bethlehem, PA

As anyone in the Lehigh Valley is certainly aware, Musikfest 2012 is ready to kick off.  The tents are up, the signs are in place and the level of activity in the downtown and south campus are at their peak levels.  Within a short period of time, tens of thousands of ‘Festers will be roaming the streets and parks of Bethlehem.  We thought we would give everyone some tips on how to have a good time and a safe festival that is enjoyable for everyone.

Every year during Musikfest, anywhere between 850,000 and 1.2 million people come to Bethlehem.  Every year we arrest in the neighborhood of seventy-five of them (last year was 81).  Even in the worst case scenario, we arrest approximately 0.009% of the people who attend the festival each year.  Needless to say, your behavior has to stand out from the crowd in order for you to be arrested during the festival.  We are very tolerant of a lot of bad behavior that would normally get you arrested in Bethlehem.  That being said, we would appreciate a little cooperation and have everyone enjoy themselves and have a good time, right up to the point where we need to step in.  We have a few guidelines below to help you out along the way, but the overall message is that if you conduct yourself in a manner that you don’t attract our attention in a negative fashion, you will most likely be OK.

Alcohol policies:

There is an Open Container Ordinance in the City of Bethlehem which prohibits people from carrying an open container of alcohol in a public place.  This ordinance is not in effect at a location for which a special occasion permit has been issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (read: Musikfest).  The permitted area only encompasses the actual Musikfest areas on the north side and the south side. While the current laws do not allow for anyone to carry an open container of alcohol outside of the Musikfest venues, we have not and will not enforce the law within a reasonable area outside of Musikfest.  As a matter of fact, only one out of last year’s eighty-one arrests was for a violation of the open container policy.  The best piece of advice is that any alcohol that is being carried should be in a container that is consistent with a Musikfest mug or cup.  If you are walking down a city street drinking a bottle of Budweiser or a fifth of Jack Daniel’s, you can expect a visit from one of our officers.  In short, if your behavior doesn’t attract our attention in a negative fashion, you will most likely be OK.

Musikfest Mug = OK

Musikfest Mug = OK

Open Bottle = Not OK

Open Bottle = Not OK



You may also have your Musikfest mug refilled with beer or a malt beverage at one of the area establishments and leave to attend the festivities at Musikfest.  PA Liquor Control Enforcement laws prohibit anyone from leaving an establishment with liquor or wine (their law, not ours).  Last year there was much consternation about whether you could walk across the Fahy Bridge with a Musikfest mug, since it is technically outside of the Musikfest area.  Out of the hundreds of people who did so, not one was stopped or arrested by the police.

Behavior Policies:

Out of the arrests made last year, the most frequently cited section was Disorderly Conduct.  This is primarily used for people who are physically fighting.  That behavior is not tolerated and fighting will almost always result in your arrest.  The next most frequent arrest is for Underage Drinking.  That will always result in your arrest and removal from the festival.  Despite how old you think you look, you look really young to us and probably don’t have much of an ability to behave properly after drinking.  Yes, we know the backpack trick, the water bottle trick, and quite a few others that we tried a time or two.  This one is very simple, if you are under 21, don’t drink at Musikfest.

Public Drunkenness rounds out the top three in arrest categories.  This is usually for people who are passed out, vomiting, or who can barely walk.  Again, if you behave in a manner that does not attract our attention in a negative manner, you will most likely be OK.

Transportation and Parking:

Parking fines are increased during the festival because the year-round residents of Bethlehem were subject to some of the more bizarre parking behaviors ever seen.  In the years before the increased fines, we had people parking in other people’s driveways, front lawns and sidewalks.  Over the years, the City and Musikfest got their collective parking act together and the problems have largely subsided.  If you are coming from out of the area, by far the best solution is to use one of the Musikfest Satellite Parking areas.  If you are in town, the Bethlehem Parking Authority has many lots that are available and convenient.  In short, there are many close, convenient, secure places to park your car.  Please be considerate, if you are not you will get ticketed and possibly towed.

Please come to Bethlehem, enjoy the festival and have a good time.  Download the Musikfest App for your iPhone, download the Bethlehem Police App for your iPhone or Android, and participate in the Lehigh Valley With Love scavenger hunt and maybe you can win some great prizes.


13 thoughts on “Bethlehem Police guide on having a safe Musikfest; OR The guide on how to not get arrested

  1. I’m a new resident of Bethlehem, and I am so impressed with public affairs campaign coordination between the DBA, government agencies (you guys!) and the Musikfest crew. Keep up the great work, and thanks for all of this helpful information.

      • In order to impress upon some 18-yr olds the futility of attempting to drink at Musicfest, please highlight the penalties for attempting to use a fake ID. Thank you.

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  3. Compared to other festivals, I think the BPD (and their helpers on horseback from the State) do an excellent job of being ready to step in when problems occur, while keeping in the “background when everyone is enjoying themselves in an appropriate manner.

    I’m a little disappointed that this guideline doesn’t mention to NEVER drive when drunk, at Musikfest or otherwise. It’s VERY easy to overindulge at Musikfest, so I’m sure some DUIs unfortunately do happen. Do you know the statistics related to DUIs in Bethlehem and surrounding communities during Musikfest?

    Last year, I was stopped in Hellertown because a headlamp was out and given a breathalizer test. I was in fact well under the limit, but it made me think that it would be nice if Musikfest provided a way for those “in doubt” to test themselves voluntarily before driving home. It just might save someone’s life.

    • Point well taken, Marc. It is great advice to NEVER drive while drunk. This guide could have included many other things, but in the interest of keeping it at a readable length, we did not include everything.

      Thanks for the positive comments.

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  5. Very well-written article, BPD.
    As someone who grew up on W Union Blvd, I know first-hand the parking nightmares.
    Before I moved for graduate school, my father and I would play “parking musical chairs” while going to work, for groceries and other necessities. (He would take up “two” spaces near the corner and then move as far forward as possible so I could squeeze in, just in front of the gutter/pedestrian line to avoid a fine) One year, we had a person from out of state yell at us about this, while my father insisted that some of us still have to live in West Bethlehem during ‘fest. This same angry ‘fester ended up parking on our sidewalk and promptly getting towed.
    As much as I miss Bethlehem and the fantastic job the BPD does (the department in my current town does not compare in efficiency!), I do not miss waking up to empty alcohol containers on my front porch or people who believe that they are entitled to park and harass residents.

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