Woodstock founder answers questions
WATKINS GLEN--The Watkins Glen Performing Arts Center was filled with residents, fans and local officials Wednesday, March 27 for an information session and a question and answer period with the Woodstock 50 organizers. The three-day event is planned for Aug. 16 to 18.
Among the presenters was Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang and a number of experts in various fields including transportation, security and medical.
The evening was set up so the organizers presented the facts as they currently know them and then residents had time to ask questions. The session lasted two hours and featured some 250 people.
Lang explained a number of the features during his time and answered questions at both the beginning and end of the night. There were also preliminary maps available for the public to look at which showed camping and parking expectations. A Powerpoint supplemented the different speakers' presentations.
The concert lineup was announced last week and featured acts over three days including Jay-Z, Dead & Company, The Killers and many others.
While many of the questions surrounded the number of tickets to be sold and how to handle overflow, the organizers explained these details were not yet finalized. Lang mentioned that they are expecting to have 27,000 campsites and there will be day parking for perhaps 10,000 cars. They said for camping the average number of people per car is 2.4 but that number could be as high as four. The tickets will all be for three days and once campers have brought their vehicle into Watkins Glen International they will not be able to leave the event. There will however be day parking, which the organizers explained would be near the track but would be off-site and will feature a shuttle to move people from the parking location to the concert. They said this lot was about 10 minutes from the track.
"Everything that we do is very focused on involving the community," said Lang to cheers from the audience after saying local business will be prioritized as vendors. "The money that we spend for the building site, for staffing the site, we always do it locally; we use local contractors so everyone can benefit from the experience."
Lang mentioned specifically that no tickets have been sold yet and they will go on sale in April. A question from an attendee about perhaps allowing locals to buy tickets in a preorder was answered by Lang saying it could be a possibility.
Organizers were repeatedly asked by residents what they would do with overflow people and the possibility that a huge number of fans could show up without a ticket. Lang said the music festival atmosphere has changed since his previous concerts and infamous ones such as Summer Jam. Although he praised the Woodstock lineup, he said people could see the headliners at many events throughout the year and it would be unlikely for people to come without a ticket. He mentioned when they started doing festivals, such as the original Woodstock, there were very few options for large concert venues, but as concerts have evolved there are numerous venues throughout the country that have large-scale events every year. Lang added this reduces the demand for each individual concert and reduces the likelihood of a turnout greater than expected. The shows are also planned to be live-streamed so music fans can remotely view the activities at WGI.
"We have a company called Teneo who is advising us on security, they are one of the largest security agencies in the country, and are very familiar with large outdoor events...we are confident we have a great team," said Lang.
When asked about who would be accountable for festival damage, Lang responded, "That would be us."
Another question about the amount of insurance the event is carrying was answered with $50 million. There will be three main stages for Woodstock 50 and two other smaller areas for acoustic performances or talks. Organizers said the stages will be set up so multiple acts can perform at the same time. They mentioned a cut off time of midnight, 1 a.m. and midnight for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively.
In addition to the New York State Police, who will be providing security on and offsite, there will be approximately 900-1,100 security personnel hired for the event. Organizers said they expect to have a mobile app in place and also have control over traffic apps such as Waze and possibly Google to help manage traffic for the event. There will be "toll booths" to enter the venue, where a car search will take place and patrons will go through a metal detector for the actual concert.
The company ParaDocs will be providing on-site medical care that will include two main centers and staff on all-terrain vehicles that can move people who need assistance to care facilities. The treatment that will be provided could range from small cuts and blisters to serious issues normally handled by a traditional emergency room. Dealing with issues on-site was repeatedly stated as a priority to ensure the local community assets will be able to help residents not involved with Woodstock.
Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said there will be additional meetings to further detail the event. He said they hope to have the next meeting in late April or May. A mass gathering permit is required for the concert weekend, and the Woodstock organizers are working through the requirements to obtain one.