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Commissioners deny festival cap increase

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

The Grand County Board of Commissioners has denied a request from a festival promoter to remove the 15,000-attendee cap on a planned country music festival in Fraser.

The board granted Live Nation Entertainment a temporary use permit with a 15,000-guest cap for the Touch the Sun Music Festival on Nov. 30.

But representatives for Live Nation argued during a special hearing on Jan. 26 that the organizer could accommodate at least 20,000 guests at the Colorado Adventure Park, the planned festival site.

Citing, among other things, traffic and access concerns, town staff recommended that the board deny raising the cap.

“We felt that it was important that this cap be put in place so we have a way to measure how we handle this and to be able to potentially allow this on a long-term basis,” said County Planner Bill Gray. “We feel that the cap that was imposed with the original permit should stay in tact.”

Sean O’Connell, vice president of operations for Live Nation’s Rocky Mountain region, said that after reviewing startup expenses, his organization had decided to seek a higher cap.

“We cannot make this a viable festival for Live Nation without having in year one at least 20,000 people possible,” O’Connell said. “We’ll reiterate that we don’t expect to have more than 10,000 or 15,000, as we’ve had in other events on year one, but that does limit us in the case that we are … able to surpass that.”

A letter from Live Nation to Gray stated that the festival site “could hold as many as 40,000 guests in the future.”

O’Connell added that, without the 20,000 cap, the festival “most likely is not going to happen.”

O’Connell had not returned a request for comment on whether the festival would be cancelled as of press time.

Black Widow Group, Live Nation’s traffic consultant, presented a draft traffic plan to the board that would see traffic routed through county roads 5 and 50 to reach the festival site.

A number of residents spoke out against the proposed increase and traffic plan, while others expressed opposition to the festival as outlined in the current permit.

“If you approve this plan, I just think its crazy,” said Fraser resident Judy Servoss. “It’s asking for all kinds of problems.”

Fraser resident Gail Stokowski said the town should stick with the 15,000-cap.

“Let’s see what happens the first year and go from there,” Stokowski said.

Fraser resident Kayleen Reeve criticized the board for permitting a music festival on the same weekend as the long-standing Blues from the Top Festival in Winter Park.

Winter Park Fraser Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Catherine Ross was the sole voice in support of raising the cap.

“We think that it’s a great benefit to our community,” Ross said.

Fraser resident Gary Redfield also raised concerns about the festival’s timing.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is insanity, and if we lose our blues festival because you put this one in, that will be one of the worst things that’s ever happened in the 35 years I’ve lived here,” Redfield said.

Emergency services weigh in

Officials from the Grand County Sheriff’s Department and Emergency Medical Services indicated that they could accommodate the cap increase.

“I think we can manage it,” said EMS Chief Ray Jennings. “I think we can manage it very well. I think it will be interesting just like anything else we do. What does the first year do for is and is it something we can bring back in the future? I don’t think we can decide that without trying it.”

Sheriff Brett Schroetlin sought to reassure the community that emergency services were doing their due diligence to plan for the event.

“Just so the community does understand, there’s a lot that goes into this,” Schroetlin said. “We talk to these guys; we look at past behaviors and things like that to come up with our conclusions as to exactly where we need to have our staffing plans, our safety plans, our traffic pans. As we move forward we learn from these events.”

Commissioners deny increase

Despite O’Connell’s reiteration that Live Nation could support the cap increase, the board was unswayed.

Commissioner Jane Tollett said she hoped the county and Live Nation could work together on the current permit.

“It was distressing to me to have you say, ‘boy, raise it our else,’ because we don’t look at doing business that way,” Tollett said. “We look at this as a long term partnership.”

Commissioner Merrit Linke opposed the increase.

“I just don’t think that I can find any reason to go to a higher cap,” Linke said.

Commissioner Kris Manguso said she didn’t think the traffic plan would work.

“Drive that road and I think you’ll have to understand why,” Manguso said.

Manguso added that she didn’t support a cap increase.

“Let’s try 15,000,” Manguso said. “If it doesn’t work for you, if it doesn’t work for us, it is what it is.”

The board voted unanimously to deny the increase.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.


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