Volume 103, Number 19 - January 11, 2007
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Is it music, or just noise?
A group of citizens who live near the Rodeo Grounds showed up at the Sporting Association meeting this week, challenging the Blues Festival’s use of the Grounds. Led by Dona Rae Morss, who had earlier circulated a petition regarding the Fest, the group asked the Sporting Association to stop the Blues Fest’s “noise” completely, or at least stipulate it end by 8 p.m.
This year, the Blues Fest’s music lasted until 11 p.m., when organizer Dan Abernathy pulled the plug. In other years, the music ended at 10 p.m. Abernathy attended the meeting to defend his annual Festival.
Morss’s house is near the grounds. She asked that the Fest “just be quieted down some,” adding that her house “just vibrates.” “The noise is the biggest factor involved,” she said. “It was worse this year than it has ever been.” “In my eyes it’s music, but in your eyes I guess it’s noise,” Abernathy mused.
He explained that this year the Fest’s sound system was operating digitally, rather than analog. Digital sound travels in bytes, while analog is produced in waves. The event organizers measured the sound, and found it was 10-15 decibels lower than before.
“I don’t see how you can have a music fest and take the volume down,” Abernathy said, adding, “We’re talking one night of the year.”
Abernathy told Morss that Lakeside Lodge was willing to donate a room for her that night, but Morss just chuckled. “I have a lot of neighbors. Will you pay for them too?” she asked.
“The Blues Fest has become one of the biggest events in Sublette County over the years,” Abernathy told the Association’s Board. The Fest has garnered national and international acclaim, he said, “and brings in thousands and thousands of dollars into the community.”
“This year we turned it down in sound, which I will do, but as I turn it down the neighbors will have to realize what’s going on and say ‘It’s not as bad as it was and it’s good for the community.’ It’s just one night,” Abernathy repeated.
Mindi Crabb, the Marketing Director for the Sublette County Tourism Board, spoke to the board on the monies generated by the Fest for restaurants, hotels, gas stations and merchants. “The Blues Fest brings in about $25,000 in revenue, and serves over 3,000 people,” Crabb explained. “But what it also does is showcase some of the neat things we have and a lot of the visitors spend more time here than that one night. They come and recreate, they fish, they hike,” she said, adding that some will inevitably return.
Cally McKee, the president of the Sublette County Chamber, spoke on behalf of the Fest as well. Acknowledging that as a neighbor the sound may be uncomfortably loud, she noted that as president of the Chamber, ‘It’s hard to dispute that it’s a great benefit to the community. I think one night is reasonable.” The pro-Fest contingent argued that shutting the Fest down early will dissuade potential attendees, who expect to “get their money’s worth." Due to hotel room shortages in the County, it would be difficult to extend the Fest to two nights and end both early. The group pointed out that many festivals, even those in small towns like Kemmerer, host music festivals that extend late into the night, or last the entire night, even in residential areas.
Terrie Swift from the Chamber defended the Fest, comparing it to other events, saying, “It’s safe to say we will have events that have impacts on citizens,” and cited Rendezvous. “But it’s reasonable to make certain sacrifices for an event so many people enjoy,” speaking also of the hundreds of locals who attend the Fest.
“Setting a precedent on a time or a decibel level is a slippery slope,” she added. “If the Blues Fest has to shut down at 8 or 9, will the Rodeo too? Or the Rendezvous? Is everyone going to have to measure sound?” she asked. Ana Cuprill added, “Turning it down is a difficult proposition. They’ll turn it down, then call you and ask ‘Is that enough?’ then they’ll have to call your neighbors. It’s too difficult to manage. I get Rendezvous parking in front of my house. I deal with it. It’s life.”
The Blues Fest organizers pointed out that they have already started to outgrow the grounds, and are exploring other sites for the event. They expect the Blues Fest to occur on the Rodeo Grounds for only another couple of years, at the most.
Getting to the point, Cuprill asked, “Would you all be willing to put up with it for one more year, knowing that you’ve been heard and Dan is concerned and they’re looking at moving it anyways?”
The neighbors had to swallow this conclusion in the end, as the Association’s Board, which didn’t want to be involved, decided that the Fest had already been granted permission for this year. There was some discussion of forming a group to discuss the issue further and find solutions, if the Fest would be held on the Grounds in coming years.
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