Brownsville, Texas - UME is the largest music experience on South Padre Island and with it comes controversy. Some South Padre Island residents call the electronic dance music festival a danger to spring breakers because of substance use in the electronic music subculture.
While others see profits as it’s a massive attraction for college students during spring break.
Upwards of 10,000 college students are expected bask in the music and light show of the Ultimate Music Experience on a single night. UME is a 3 day nighttime music event.
Paul Magee has promoted music events for more than 2 decades, he is also the UME co-owner.
However, for two consecutive years UME has been under the microscope. In 2015 and 2016, spring breakers have passed away after attending at its previous location, Schlitterbahn, and opted to cut ties with event.
Their deaths did not occur at UME but the loss of a life weigh heavy on Magee, even contemplating putting an end to the music experience all together.
However, Magee believes without a UME during spring break, underground promoters would take advantage of their absence and cut costs on security at similar EDM concerts “and that’s when things start getting dangerous.”
2017 has a new location and an increase in security, Clayton’s Beach Bar is hosting UME during Spring Break Texas Week.
NEWS CENTER 23’S Derick Garcia was given an all access look at the security and safety.
“It’s one of the safest places to go on South Padre Island “boasted Magee while standing at security check point. Before dancers can enter, they’re searched at 3 different stages; first all ID’S are checked and anyone under 21 is marked with thick black X’s on their hands. Following an ID check, all bags are checked, no matter how small and all items are checked, “anything we feel something can be hidden in we don’t allow.”
The list of prohibited is emailed to all online ticket purchasers and on UME’s website.
At the third check point, if security sniffs out any prohibited items the festival-hopeful must go through a police conducted search and/or are escorted out.
Out of the dozens of UME-goers, all welcomed the security checks.
“That’s the first time I’ve been patted down going into a concert or anything.” said Oklahoma University student Kate Blakely.
NEWS CENTER 23’S Derick Garcia asked “does it make you feel safer?” “I mean yeah, people can’t sneak [stuff] in.” For the record, Blakely did not attempt to sneak any prohibited items in. Feet away from security check in are first aid stations and ambulances on standby.
While police in Kevlar vests and more than 150 security personnel are a visible deterrent, Magee, knows what happens before and after is out of his control.
At the end of the day, as a parent to five children, we can do as much as we can. If we could hold everybody's hand and walk them home and put them to bed safely we would, but obviously in the real world that obviously can't happen. Keeping safety in mind is our number one priority."