By Stephanie Brito, Edysmar Diaz-Cruz, and Jennifer Perez
Ella Hernandez came to Ultra in shorts and a bikini top last year. This year, she’ll come with her friend’s ID and a lot of makeup–she’s 17.
After a guard was trampled by people who wanted to enter Ultra Music Festival last year, the company decided to implement an age restriction. The incident exacerbated years of Ultra scandals dating back to 1999, when the event was founded. Last year, a 21-year-old died from Alpha-PVP toxicity, from synthetic bath salts. In 2013, someone almost died after drinking water laced with antifreeze.
For the first time those under 18 will not be allowed into the event, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.
If she goes, Ella plans to use a friend’s ID to get into the event. But she doesn’t even have to go that far.
“There’s also other ways to get in like wearing a shirt of a water person working inside or having connections and going through back entrances,” she said.
Ella isn’t the only one. 17-year-old Leslie Davis also plans on going, despite the age limit. She plans to use her friend’s ID, which is something she has done before.
“I’m worried about not being able to get in. Usually security isn’t strict, but they’re claiming it’s going to be stricter. And I’m worried that they’re going to be able to recognize that the picture in the ID isn’t me,” she said.
And Aventura police officer Nelson Reyes believes she will get caught. Reyes–who calls himself a big Deadmau5 fan–has been to Ultra and was disappointed at what he saw: drugs, booze, and all kinds of adult behavior. Nothing suitable for minors.
“When you incorporate drugs and getting stoned and getting drunk, then it’s not about the music, it’s about irresponsible behavior,” he said.
But he doesn’t think that this should apply exclusively to Ultra. It’s not about the bass, the lights or the beats. It’s about the kind of environment music festivals can expose teenagers to–the reason Reyes believes in the age restrictions.
“One person alone normally wouldn’t act like a fool. But when put in a group and when alcohol is involved, it becomes a psychological experiment. One will try to outdo the other,” he said.
Reyes is referring to a psychological phenomenon called deindividuation; it explains why people act differently in groups of people which, in the case of Ultra, can lead to dangerous behavior such as fights or heightened drug use.
“You can’t expect [Ultra] to be safe.” said Reyes.
Reyes compared Ultra to bars and other places that serve alcohol, where minors aren’t allowed.
But the majority of minors are willing to wait until they’re over 18 to experience Ultra. The company urges minors to watch ULTRA LIVE online at home.
For others like Ella and Leslie, the rules won’t stop them from watching their favorite artists live.