As 1,500 Gathered On Hill, Knarich
Ignored Warnings, Sheriff Alleges
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
NEW LISBON – The organizer of what’s been described as a pro-marijuana-legalization festival that drew as many as 1,500 people to a rural hilltop over the weekend was arrested this morning.
George A. Knarich, 55, is charged with violating Governor Cuomo’s executive orders against COVID-Era mass gatherings on land, it is further alleged, that had been seized by Otsego County as a tax foreclosure – he didn’t even own it.
According to Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., his department received a tip that NY Harvest Fest & Freedom Fair/Political Rally, featuring music and vendors, was still scheduled, despite the executive order banning “non-essential gatherings” of 50 or more people.
The tip was passed along to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health director, who reached out to Knarich.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, along with sheriff’s deputies, delivered a cease-and-desist order on Bond’s behalf. According to Devlin, the property was also foreclosed by the county at that time.
However, the event began Friday as scheduled, and on Saturday, Oct. 10, the deputies returned to serve a notice of hearings for violations of Title 10 (Health) of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) for promoting a non-essential gathering. The violation carries a fine of up to $15,000.
According to Devlin’s press release, Knarich disobeyed the order and continued hosting the event, and warrants were issued by New Lisbon Town Court.
Knarich was charged with Trespass and Criminal Nuisance in the Second Degree and taken into custody without incident.
The investigation is ongoing and at least one additional arrest is pending, according to the press release.