The theft of four golf carts, used at the just concluded June Jam outdoor concert, has clouded the success of the June 15 event, which organizers considered to be the best in its 35-year history.
One of the carts belonged to the G&R Campground, where the concert was held, but three others were rented from a Goldsboro, Md. company. Damage to one of the rental carts, which has been recovered, is estimated at $2,000, while the two remaining missing carts are valued at approximately $3,750 and $3,900.
While the event itself is covered by insurance, the policy does not cover the stolen carts; any repair or replacement costs would come directly from June Jam organizers, said event spokeswoman Lynn Fowler.
"There was a lot of damage done," Fowler said. "We don't even have a total amount yet."
One of the stolen carts was found in a nearby cornfield on Mesibov Road, with severe damage to its steering mechanism. A bottle of Captain Morgan rum was found in the rear of the cart.
Whoever drove that cart caused considerable damage to the corn crop and a string of mailboxes along the roadside, Fowler said.
The cart owned by the campground was found undamaged nearby on Gun and Rod Club Road, between Harrington and Houston.
June Jam has used golf carts for the past eight years without incident, Fowler said.
The three rental vehicles were delivered by Golf Cart Sales and Service of Goldsboro on June 14, used during the Saturday event and parked near the campground headquarters Saturday night.
The rental carts were parked near an activity hall on the campground after the staff was finished cleaning up Sunday afternoon, and were due to be picked up on Monday. The campground's cart was in the parking lot.
The thieves apparently were two men driving a greenish-blue four-door sedan with Delaware license plates. The pair appeared to have driven into the site at least twice, taking a cart each time. Both incursions were recorded on video.
One of the thieves encountered campground owner Norman Dempster during the second theft.
Dempster said the man appeared to have been startled by his unexpected arrival, but recovered his composure enough to say he was looking to find a lost wallet. Unaware of the first intrusion, Dempster casually talked to the man, gave him a phone number to call and went inside. Surveillance video later showed that's when the second theft apparently took place.
Dempster said the man appeared to be about 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, with sandy brown hair, a round face and weighing about 160 pounds. He told Dempster he was from the Harrington area.
Page 2 of 2 - Dempster later ran into the man and another man as they were walking into the grounds on the exit road. The two again appeared surprised to see him, but the first man claimed to have lost the phone number Dempster had given him before. One of them asked to use the portable toilet, but they apparently left without doing so. Dempster surmises the last two carts disappeared after that encounter.
Dempster said he thought nothing of the encounters, being unaware of the thefts and because he had helped other people recover lost items.
Fowler said June Jam organizers were not aware of the thefts until they were called by Delaware State Police after the one cart was found in the cornfield Monday. One person reported seeing someone driving a golf cart and parking it in the garage of a home that's under construction, but a later investigation showed the cart was not there. It appears, Fowler speculated, the cart was driven there but taken away by another vehicle.
Police spokesman Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said detectives are investigating the case, but have no suspects.
Cash still will be donated
Fowler said June Jam organizers are distraught with the thefts, not just because of the monetary loss which they will have to cover, but because of the mean-spirited attitude of the thieves.
"We've never had any kind of vandalism," she said, adding that the June 15 event went off without any hint of a problem.
Being a charity event, this year's June Jam raised money for the A.I. DuPont Hospital's orthopedic unit and Veterans Outreach of Delaware. That cash still will be donated, Fowler said. They have some cash left over from ticket sales to put toward replacing the golf carts, and three bands will donate their entire paychecks from their next gigs to help, she said.
"It's really been an amazing response," she said. "Normally we're the people doing the giving; we've never been the receiver. This is kind of new and overwhelming for us."
As for Dempster, he will continue to welcome June Jam in the future.
"It wasn't their fault, it was these particular people," he said. "They wanted to do something destructive.
"The June Jam people work hard and these people just took advantage of the situation. That's a hurting thing and we're determined to do something about it."