Sect claims garlic fest is religious event

Seattle Post-Intelligencer/August 1, 2002

Arlington -- The Love Israel family's annual Arlington Garlic and Music Festival has grown too large to be considered a religious event, Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger says.

The sect, established as a counterculture group in the 1960s, applied under protest this week for a permit for the 13th annual garlic fest next week

For the past 12 years the group claimed an exemption on religious grounds from county requirements that a permit be obtained for public gatherings of at least 100 people.

Organizers say the outdoor festival's booths, music and food drew as many as 15,000 people last year.

"That's not a religious event anymore," Terwilliger said Wednesday.

A spokesman for the group, Serious Israel - all members take the last name Israel - said the permit application was filed but the decision to require one has been appealed to the county hearing examiner.

The event is "a part of our culture. This is our summer festival, where we celebrate our friendship with a whole lot of people," he said.

The group uses the event as "a gathering of the family. We get people coming from all over the world to reconnect," he said. "For us, this is what our religion is all about."

Terwilliger said the county received complaints last year from area residents who said there was illegal drug use, too much noise late at night and traffic jams that hindered access by emergency vehicles.

Despite requests from 12 residents to deny permission for the three-day festival Aug. 9-11, Terwilliger said his office would probably issue a permit but will place conditions on traffic, noise and other matters.

The Love Israel family includes about 60 people who live in small homes and yurts, a form of tent. The group recently put the property up for sale in frustration over county refusal to allow construction of permanent homes in a cluster.

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