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WE Fest security gets help from horse posse

It is easy to assume that the job of security manager for WE Fest -- known for its dangerous combination of alcohol and hot weather -- has an extremely high turnover rate.

However, Mark Ehlenz, of Stillwater, Minn., has held that position for 13 years -- and remains admirably upbeat.

"It's been fairly tame," said Ehlenz, who manages WE Fest's security through Security Specialists Inc., based in Stillwater, of this year's festival.

He noted that, although an expected degree of misbehavior has been present, people are acting "as well as can be expected."

And, despite the fact that this WE Fest has been an adjustment to security due to new management, Ehlenz thinks the momentary stress is ultimately for the best.

"F.A.C.E. Inc. (the company that hosts WE Fest) has made some great changes that I'm looking forward to, but with change comes work," Ehlenz said.

To ease Security Specialists' load, the Becker County Sheriff's Department has employed volunteer Mounted Patrol for the entirety of WE Fest.

"They roam the campgrounds and help with crowd control," Ehlenz said. Additionally, the Mounted Patrol assists with "blow in" and "blow out," terms referring to the brief surge in traffic at the gates before and after a major act.

"We enjoy working with them," Ehlenz added. "They're very helpful."

Through a carefully plotted network of security workers, volunteer horsemen and management like Ehlenz, maintaining order at the largest country music festival in America is far from a hopeless cause.

"This is my favorite festival that I work," Ehlenz said, adding, "things tend to move pretty smooth from year to year."

Security guards are handpicked from the general region where an event will happen (for WE Fest, most came from the Fargo-Moorhead area), and many return year after year.

"It's like a family reunion when we get together," Ehlenz said. "It's fun."