Love them or hate them, you probably grunt in annoyance when you see their red and blue lights in your rearview mirror or panic when you see them pull up to your noisy, underaged house party. Either way, the police is what keeps festivals like Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ running.
By 9 p.m. on Saturday, Roots 'n Blues is not only packed with people, it's packed with a good number of sloppy, tripping people. So naturally, a police officer's main concern at a big festival is safety.
"We don't want anybody to get hurt -- that could be we don't want anyone to get injured in any way by assault or by falling down or just drinking too much," Columbia Police Officer Todd Alber said.
Understandable concern, given the amounts of spilled beer on the street and the block of people down Elm Street who waited in lines that stretched from one curb to the other in front of each of the 20 porta-potties, but the police had a relatively easy job with this festival.
"We haven't really had any problems at all," Alber said. "I don't think we've had one disturbance yet."
Beyond the safety factor, Alber said he wanted people to have fun.
"The biggest thing is to make sure everybody has a good time," Alber said. "They're down here to have a good time and we want to encourage that as long as they're not causing any problems."
With such a quiet night, the officer was able to enjoy the festival himself.
"I ate a little barbecue, and the music's great," Alber said. "Joanne Shaw Taylor -- she was amazing this afternoon. She's probably the best female guitar player I've ever seen in my life. And I'm old."
See? The police really aren’t there to bust the party.