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17 August 2005

they came, they saw, they flopped in the mud, they took their clothes off in the parking lot, they

The Springfield (Massachusetts USA) Republican
Tuesday 16 August 2005

Warped Tour concert
snarls traffic for miles

by Diane Lederman

NORTHAMPTON -- Traffic was backed up for miles along Interstate 91 yesterday as police dealt with the estimated 20,000 rock fans who jammed the Three County Fairgrounds for the Warped Tour.

As traffic and parking problems mounted, city police asked state police to shut down three northbound exits on Interstate 91 about 4:15 p.m., to divert traffic away from the concert site, state police said.

Exits 19 and 21 were reopened about 8:15 p.m., and state police hoped to reopen Exit 18, at the Interstate 91 junction with Route 5 in Northampton, by 11 p.m.

As Northampton police worked to ease traffic problems last night, they said they had to respond to Cross Path Road around 9:30 near the fairgrounds, where several young women were standing on a car and disrobing and causing something of a commotion among concertgoers.

City police stopped letting people without tickets into the concert area about 4:30 p.m., halting the purchase of tickets at the door 3½ hours before the concert was scheduled to end at 8 p.m. Those with tickets were allowed entry.

Cars full of concertgoers had snarled traffic on Interstate 91 northbound for miles well before the gates opened at 11 a.m. for the start of the noon concert. Vehicles were also backed up on Damon Road much of the day and on Route 9 at some points during the day all the way to downtown.

State police reported some problems with people abandoning their cars on the interstate and walking to the concert and others with vehicles that broke down or ran out of gas, requiring police to deal with those problems as well.

The only arrest reported was that of Olivia Singleton, 21, of Great Barrington, who state police said ignored a trooper's order about 5 p.m. not to exit the interstate at Exit 19, and hit him with her car as she did.

The trooper was not seriously injured. Singleton was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (her vehicle), failure to stop for a police officer and failure to obey a police officer, state police said.

Local police reported no arrests as of last night. There were a couple of ambulance runs from the concert to Cooley Dickinson Hospital earlier in the day, but police did not know whether there had been any serious injuries.

Fair general manager Bruce Shallcross said he was not sure why there were parking problems that contributed to the traffic backups. In the past when the Warped Tour had been held, that hadn't been an issue. The event has been staged here for years, although last year city officials denied concert promoters a permit for a two-day festival to mark the tour's 10th anniversary.

This was the last stop on the music festival tour this year. The Warped Tour also included stops in Florida, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Concert organizers, police and city officials met earlier this year to discuss a range of issues including security, parking and traffic management. Officials also met with the neighbors, who were concerned with traffic, noise and litter.

Shallcross said the fairgrounds has parking for about 5,500 to 6,000 cars, which is usually good enough for about 24,000 people.

He said people working for the concert promoters were in charge of parking and had been avoiding the use of one of the larger lots because of the mud, but were directed in the afternoon to park cars there.

Shallcross estimated 20,000 music fans packed a field near the racetrack for the event that featured dozens of bands, including The Offspring and the Dropkick Murphys.

But while there was a tangle of traffic outside the event, inside at midday there was nothing but a sea of teens and twenty somethings "having a good time," said City Council President Michael R. Bardsley, who toured the concert scene with Ward 3 City Councilor Marilyn A. Richards. The concert is a nonalcoholic event.

Fitzwilly's, a popular restaurant and bar on Main Street, was full last night at 9:30 p.m., although traffic outside remained thick, said Devin J. Hammerle, a Fitzwilly's manager.

"I don't think (the concert) really had a negative effect on us," he said. "I think it's throwing business into the area."

Hammerle, a Chicopee resident, said the restaurant didn't lose any reservations. He said he suspected many people, including concertgoers were parking wherever possible and walking to Fitzwilly's. He noted that his own afternoon commute to work was delayed by 30 to 45 minutes by the earlier traffic jam.

Earlier in the day, there had been some noise complaints from neighbors, and Building Commissioner Anthony Patillo said they were going to check it out and ask the volume be lowered if it exceeded the city noise ordinance volume.

Richards, who earlier had received calls of complaint as well, said they would be holding a meeting with neighbors and others following the event to look at "Is the event too big for the neighborhood? You have to balance that," she said with the fairgrounds being able to conduct business and offering teenagers a place to go.

She was concerned with the flow of traffic after the event and was hoping the area would be cleared by midnight.

She said 25 cents of every ticket was being contributed to the city's Youth Commission.

Ward 3 Neighborhood Association Chairman Robert Reckman, who lives on nearby Fruit Street, said he could hear the music when he was outside, but not once he stepped inside his house.

He said he had only heard one complaint about traffic.

Staff writer David Bergengren contributed to this story.
© 2005 The Republican. Used by with permission.


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