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Woodstock 50 Called ‘Recipe for Disaster’ at Local Town Meeting

UPDATED: The troubled Woodstock 50 festival was called a “recipe for disaster” by the local head of emergency services at a Monday town meeting in Vernon, New York, the latest proposed site for the event.

Oneida Country Head of Emergency Services Kevin Revere made that comment when speaking of the serious challenges local authorities face in planning an event expected to draw some 65,000 people in just five weeks, while Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol said the festival should take place in August 2020, not 2019, according to WKTV.

“No matter how good the plan looks on paper, to implement this plan in 39 days, is impossible to ensure the safety of the public,” he told the standing-room-only crowd at the meeting.

Greg Peck, the president of Woodstock 50, LLC, responded:

“We understand the public safety and traffic concerns of the local community. We have been working diligently over the last several weeks to secure the permits needed to hold the festival, and will continue to work with Law Enforcement and Public Safety Officials to present a cohesive safety and traffic plan that will be satisfactory in addressing the concerns.  We appreciate the honest feedback from the Town of Vernon and will continue to address their comments as we enter the final planning phases for Woodstock 50.  We are confident that this careful planning and consideration of community concerns will result in a safe, world-class Festival.’’

Just five weeks from the festival, which is scheduled to take place on the weekend of Aug. 16-18, the Vernon Downs venue has not been confirmed, nor have tickets gone on sale. The festival, which is scheduled to feature a blockbuster lineup including Jay-Z, Dead & Co., Miley Cyrus and many others, has been plagued by organizational and financial difficulties since it was announced: The original financial backer pulled out in May, as did the planned venue, Watkins Glen International speedway, last month. Vernon Downs has been proposed but not confirmed as a new venue for the festival; Woodstock producers are still waiting for approval from the State Health Department to hold the event.

Promoters for the event were given the opportunity to present their proposal to the board and the community, but had no answers for residents who asked where the 65,000 people would go each night of the festival; there are no on-site camping facilities at Vernon Downs. Last month, Town of Vernon Supervisor Randy Watson told Variety that festival organizers had been speaking with nearby campgrounds and local farm owners about accommodating concertgoers.

According to the report, the “overwhelming” reaction from local residents and businesses was negative, who cited concerns about traffic, property damage and overextended emergency and police resources, among other matters.

Revere told the Poughkeepsie Journal Tuesday, “Our stance has been from the beginning of hearing about this that we have serious concerns regarding having enough time to plan for an event of this size at this location. We have been working hard at sorting out all the details of this, which still remain up in the air, to be quite honest. We will continue to do so.”

Last week, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. issued a statement that reads in part: “With the event just a little over a month away, we have been asked to prepare in just days what has failed to get done in over a year of negotiations and preparations at the previous location … With such a short time frame the logistical hurdles to ensure the public health and safety of the concertgoers and the surrounding community could pose a significant challenge.”

Several Town of Vernon and Oneida County officials did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment.

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