UPDATED: The permit required to stage the troubled Woodstock 50 festival at its most recent proposed site, Vernon Downs in the town of Vernon near Utica in Upstate New York, has been denied, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. tells Variety. The application was filed well after the standard 120-day deadline, a source says.
The promoters have appealed or will appeal the decision, according to a statement sent to Variety Tuesday night. However, Picente says, “what they have submitted to date has not met many of the requirements” to stage the festival and the chances of it taking place in Oneida Country seem “highly unlikely.
“It’s been chaotic,” he said of the past few weeks’ scramble to stage the festival at Vernon Downs, which has no camping facilities, after the previous proposed venue, Watkins Glen International speedway, pulled out last month. “Originally it was going to be a three-day festival, but then [the producers] said instead it would be three one-day events, with all 65,000 or however many people vacating the grounds at the end of each day.”
Asked about the likelihood that producers could appeal the decision and the festival could be staged at Vernon Downs, Picentre allowed that “anything is possible,” but noted, “We could have done this with a year or 16 months advance [planning], but to do it in three to six weeks is really a near impossibility from a public safety and health standpoint,” he continued. “As someone who as here for 1999 [Woodstock’s troubled 30th anniversary concert in nearby Rome, N.Y., which was marred by violence and fires], some names have changed but it’s largely the same situation.”
A rep for Woodstock 50 responded: “In response to the denial of an event permit by the Town of Vernon, Woodstock 50 believes certain political forces may be working against the resurrection of the Festival. Local reports claim Woodstock’s filing for the permit was ‘incomplete’ but that is not the case. Woodstock 50 officials were informed by the Town of Vernon that most questions had been answered and asked only that Woodstock submit medical, safety/security and traffic plans by this past Sunday, which it did. With a venue chosen, financing assembled and many of the artist’s supporting Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary event, the organizers are hopeful that their appeal and reapplication tonight will prevail without further political interference.”
Just five weeks from the festival, which is scheduled to take place on the weekend of Aug. 16-18, Woodstock 50 has no venue, 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, Dentsu Aegis, pulled out in May; Watkins Glen International speedway, followed last month.
Vernon Downs was proposed but never confirmed as the most recent site for Woodstock 50. On Monday night the festival was called a “recipe for disaster” by the local head of emergency services at a town meeting in Vernon.
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.
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.’’
However, today’s setback is the latest in many for Woodstock 50, and many insiders tell Variety that time ran out long ago for staging a successful and well-organized festival.