Despite rain, fans won’t back down | AspenTimes.com

Despite rain, fans won’t back down

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

No, they wouldn’t back down – not even when a sudden downpour threatened to scare off the legions of fans who came to see legends.

The storm that brought an abrupt end to the set by blues icon Bo Diddley cleared up in time for an appearance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival on Saturday. This break in the weather led to what may have been the biggest night of the four-day festival, though final crowd numbers were not available last night.

Art Smythe, Snowmass Village police chief, said Saturday’s crowd numbered 9,000 people, while Sunday’s appearance by Neil Young and Crazy Horse attracted about 8,000. Those are rough estimates, he said.

“It seemed like Tom Petty was the biggest of the nights – that’s the sort of sense we got,” Smythe said.

Police must wait for crowd tallies from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which ferried most festival-goers, and officials at Jazz Aspen Snowmass, who were not available for comment Monday. But initial reports point to a successful weekend, thanks, in part, to an expanded concert venue in the Brush Creek Valley.

“The new venue worked pretty well,” Smythe said. “We’re always working with [Jazz Aspen] and RFTA to tweak things and make it the best possible guest experience. With the new configuration, there are things that come up that we deal with on the fly, but things went pretty well.”

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One element in need of tweaking was the village bus schedule. Some festival-goers reported long lines for buses on big concert nights, and a complete lack of public transportation for those attending the “After Dark” concerts that began at 10 p.m. and later.

“On Saturday, the biggest night, there were waits for buses,” Smythe said. “We wanted to improve that, and we did for Sunday night.”

Police also dealt with the usual amount of medical calls and reports of intoxicated patrons, Smythe said.

“We kept fairly busy with small incidents and things … but that’s to be expected at something like this,” he said, citing the large number of people coming in and out of the village over the weekend.

These glitches and others will be discussed over the next few weeks as concert officials and police review the weekend, Smythe said. The group, with help from festival customers and neighbors, will evaluate the success of the new venue layout, which included the stage pointing north, toward Brush Creek Road.

Snowmass police have received a few phone calls from angry drivers, Smythe said, questioning the closure of Brush Creek Road during peak festival hours. These comments and more will factor into the group’s follow-up evaluation.

David Meeker, who patrolled the Snowmass scene with local security agency Specialized Protective Services, said he also likes the festival’s new layout. With the creation of a “village” on the north side of Brush Creek Road, music lovers had a bit more room to groove.

“The venue’s really great. The way they’ve got it set up gives everyone plenty of space and room to spread out,” Meeker said. “If you want to have more of a family-type deal, and give the kids room to run around, you’ve got the room to do that.”

A larger venue makes for happier ticket holders, he said, meaning a quiet weekend for security personnel.

“From a security standpoint, everything’s going really smooth. It’s been really easy to secure,” Meeker said.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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