CUYAHOGA FALLS — With the end of the 50th anniversary season since audiences began enjoying music under the sky at Blossom Music Center, Summit County Sheriff’s deputies also will step back from another season of keeping the peace at the rustic concert venue.

"To my knowledge, the sheriff’s office started working the detail in the early 70s with the Cuyahoga Falls and Northampton police departments," Sheriff’s Inspector Bill Holland said.

Today, security is provided by the sheriff’s office and Blossom’s own internal security personnel. Personnel from the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Ohio Investigative Unit also are often on hand to look out for underage drinkers.

"We continue to provide security at Blossom because we have been successful there over the years and we have maintained a very good relationship with the different companies that have operated Blossom," Holland said. "We are also one of the few local agencies that has the manpower to accommodate such a large event. In addition, we have a bomb squad, crime scene unit, mobile field force, SWAT team, and other specialty units that would be available if a large incident were to occur at Blossom."

Sheriff’s Captain Shane Barker, who is in his second season supervising security at Blossom, said large incidents have not been an issue, despite crowds that can be as large as 20,000 for a rock or country concert and 12,000 for a Cleveland Orchestra concert.

"We haven’t had any unruly crowds this summer," he said. "If we have 20,000 people in there and three or four arrests, that’s a pretty busy night. People are there to have a good time and they generally behave themselves."

Barker added that this was true last year, as well.

Holland said the sheriff’s office has dealt with a wide range of offenses at Blossom during the past few decades.

"Over the years, we have responded to a myriad of crimes at Blossom," he said. "We have investigated rapes, assaults, felonious assaults, thefts, OVIs, vandalism, drug possession and trafficking, disorderly conduct, underage possession of alcohol, and others."

But Barker and Holland said the very worst thing to happen at Blossom that they know of is a murder in the 1980s. In 2006, 43-year-old Glenn L. Benner II was executed by lethal injection for the August 1985 murder of Cynthia Sedgwick, as well as another woman, Trina Bowser in Akron in January 1986.

According to a January 2006 clemency report, in which the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended that then Gov. Bob Taft not spare Benner’s life, Sedgwick and Benner were separately attending a George Thurogood concert at Blossom on Aug. 6, 1985, where they both left a group of friends each was with. Nearly a week later, a Blossom parking lot attendant found Sedgwick’s body in the woods near the music center.

Two men who attended the concert with Benner that night later testified they had seen Benner going into the woods with a woman and another man testified that Benner had told him the day after the concert he had choked a woman to death at Blossom the night before.

Deputies and Blossom

security work together

Lately, though, things have been not quite so dramatic.

While Blossom officials did not return phone calls seeking comment, Holland said deputies handle a variety of duties. Those include traffic control, patrols of parking lots and other exterior areas, and security at screening points, the ticket office, inside the venue and backstage. In addition, the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department provides EMS personnel at Blossom’s first aid station. Barker said most medical issues are heat related and sometimes someone drinking too much.

Barker said deputies also are posted at several intersections along West Steels Corners Road between Route 8 and Blossom to deal with such issues as OVIs and crashes, neither of which typically is a big problem.

"People have been real good using Uber," he said, adding, "We’ve had a few minor fender benders. It’s low-speed crashes. I think we had a squad call for a hurt neck."

Barker said the number of deputies on duty can vary between around a dozen to about 45, depending on whether a band wants extra security back stage and, because it is a voluntary detail, how many deputies are available that night.

Deputies are paid by Blossom, not the taxpayer. Barker said he could not provide an overall figure for how much Blossom pays deputies because the money is paid directly to each deputy and is not funneled through the sheriff’s office. But the pay for each deputy is $30 per hour for eight to 10 hours typically for rock and country concerts and six hours for orchestra concerts.

The sheriff’s office supplements Blossom’s own unarmed security people, with the sheriff’s office handling arrests and transport of arrestees to Summit County Jail and the concert venues security people handling anything else.

"They’re internal security people and do crowd control," Barker said. "If they have a problem and somebody doesn’t listen to them, not cooperating, somebody who’s really drunk and obnoxious, that’s when they call us. There’s a whole lot more of them than us. I guess they have at least a hundred security people inside, if not more for the bigger shows."

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.