Villa Grove community debriefed on music festival

Photo by Patrick Shea Speaking as the Incident Commander for the Seven Peaks Festival in Villa Grove over Labor Day Weekend, Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick described cooperation with Colorado State Patrol and other key agencies.

VILLA GROVE — More than 115 people attended a community meeting at the Villa Grove Fire Department on Aug. 2 to learn details about the Seven Peaks Festival scheduled in town for Labor Day Weekend. The audience directed questions to Saguache County Commissioners, Colorado State Patrol, a Live Nation representative, and the Incident Commander, Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick.

According to one business owner in the audience, “We should have had this meeting three months ago.”

Although different agencies have been meeting regularly to discuss details, residents didn’t know. So, another business owner, Kelly Marshall, organized the meeting at the fire station and assembled questions. Audience members posed more as the night evolved.

Updated estimates put the crowd at 13,000 instead of 20,000, based on pre-sale data. For the county, the scale of this event is unprecedented. According to Live Nation’s Tim Reid attending via telephone, Live Nation has produced 39 shows over the past 10 years. In mid-July, they had 45,000 people in Detroit.

But Villa Grove has fewer than 500 residents. Accommodating Labor Day traffic is always a challenge, despite the revenue it generates for the town. Beyond asking why they were not notified in advance, residents asked about plans for sanitation, traffic backups, crowd management, and cleanup after the musicians and fans go home.

Reid said they use a company that cleans Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City after events, and they clean up after PGA Tour golf tournaments as well. Reid also said the standard formula of one portable restroom for every 90 people is “horrible.” Instead, they will have 450 facilities, which drops the ratio to one toilet per 28 people.

Also, the property owner paid to install a 50,000 gallon septic tank to handle all the waste from campers over time. The site can support more than the 300 campsites already established for the event. They will accommodate RVs as well.

People reported traffic backups in Chaffee County for this event in the past. Residents worried about lines of cars on both ends of Villa Grove. Colorado State Patrol Capt. Brett Williams said they will be paving a separate lane for southbound traffic.

State patrollers will monitor northbound traffic, and flaggers will direct drivers. Williams said his staff will be on-site, including five Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) trained to identify drugged and drunk drivers and could conduct blood tests.

The main entrance will funnel cars off the highway and provide multiple lanes for initial check-in a half-mile from the gate. Weapons will not be permitted, but event organizers will have a secure storage facility so fans can surrender their guns and retrieve them when the festival ends. Other restrictions include no fires and no fireworks.

Performances on the main stage will conclude at 11 p.m., and a smaller, quieter stage called “Whisky Row” will close at 1 a.m.

Live Nation has a dedicated medical staff as well, and they will make announcements throughout the event to remind people to hydrate themselves.

Residents asked about festival-goers wandering through town after the music. As Sheriff Warwick noted, he will have staff in town for the weekend. Similarly, if people park in front of private property or along the highway, vehicles will be towed away as quickly as possible.