Lockn’ Seeking Changes in Traffic Plan for Festival – Wants More Local Business Participation

©2013-2014 Blue Ridge Life: Photo By Marcie Gates : Thousands attended the Lockn' 2013 event. Organizers say they've heard from people living nearby and attendees. They are promising improvements during the 2014 event in early September.
©2013-2014 Blue Ridge Life: Photo By Marcie Gates : Thousands attended the Lockn' 2013 event. Organizers say they've heard from people living nearby and attendees. They are promising improvements during the 2014 event in early September.
©2013-2014 Blue Ridge Life: Photo By Marcie Gates : Thousands attended the Lockn’ 2013 event. Organizers say they’ve heard from people living nearby and attendees. They are promising improvements during the 2014 event in early September.

Nelson County, VA
By Woody Greenberg

David Frey, promoter of the Lockn’ Festival which last September drew 25,000 people for the four-day event at Oak Ridge, said March 25 he was working with state and county officials on a traffic plan meant to prevent last year’s jams on local roads.

Speaking to a small audience of county residents and business owners at the Carriage House at Oak Ridge, Frey said last year the State Police, fearing a traffic emergency on U.S. 29 on the morning of the first day of the festival, tried to get every vehicle going to the event off the highway and on to local roads, causing traffic jams on secondary roads that lasted for hours.

With parking lots not scheduled to open until 2 p.m., Lockn’ workers and volunteers had to scramble to accommodate thousands of people in a field that had no toilet facilities, water or food. Meanwhile, vehicles routed by the State Police onto Wilson Road, Diggs Mountain Road and Arrington Road were unable to get into the festival grounds for many hours.

Doris Drumheller, who lives on Drumheller Orchard Road behind Nelson County High School, a few miles from Oak Ridge, said it took her six hours to get to the festival because she had been diverted onto Diggs Mountain Road. Other residents reported similar waits, and property owners along the affected roads reported people urinating on their properties because of the long waits and absence of porta-potties.

Frey apologized for last year’s difficulties but said things would be different this coming September. He said he was pressing the Virginia Department of Transportation and the State Police to allow left turns off of U.S 29 at Oak Ridge Road and into a field owned by Jay Goodwin near that intersection. Last year vehicles had to drive four miles south and make a U-turn near Tye River Road, where they were then diverted onto secondary roads.

Traffic lines up along Route 29 last year during the 2013 Lockn’ festival in Arrington.

Frey said Goodwin’s field would be equipped with porta-potties, water and food and the entry time into the festival would be much earlier in the morning. He said public schools, which were closed last September on Thursday and Friday of the festival to avoid the heavy traffic, would only need to be closed on Thursday.

Lester Saunders, whose family owns the Exxon Station, Colleen Drive-In and a seed and feed store on U.S. 29 just south of Rt. 56, said his businesses were hurt last year because crossovers on 29 were blocked by police. Vehicles were directed to make U-turns at Tye River or at Nelson County High School, several miles north and south of his businesses. “Those U-turns killed my business for three days,” he said, adding that he was paying ten employees who had little to do. “I can see the first day but it wasn’t necessary Friday or Saturday.”

Saunders also said he had purchased several thousand dollars worth of beer and other beverages expecting festival-goers to be customers, but hardly sold any and the beer distributor would not take it back.

Drumheller said her orchard business was affected negatively by Lockn’ because people were afraid of getting stuck in traffic on 29.

Other local business people along 29 reported sharp drops in business, rather than increases, because of media reports of terrible traffic. That was true Thursday morning when the event opened, but traffic was light to normal on Friday and Saturday.

Frey said they learned from last year’s experience that the vast majority of festival-goers preferred to remain on the Oak Ridge site and buy food and beer at the festival.

Frey said they would do more to communicate with local media this year, and mentioned using the Blue Ridge Life web site, Facebook and other social media to inform people accurately of traffic conditions. He said they would publish phone numbers people could call for information. He said people could also email: info@locknfestival.com

Ben Thompson, manager of food and beverage services for the festival, said Lockn’ was making an effort to involve more local businesses and non-profits with the event. He said they might lower the commission for local food and craft businesses, and they would provide refrigeration for food vendors. “We want to do a lot to make it possible for smaller mom and pop businesses to participate.”

Thompson said there was a “Get Involved” tab on locknfestival.com, that provides applications for craft and apparel businesses, food vendors and non-profits who want to participate.

Thompson said festival visitors who stayed at Wintergreen and elsewhere did eat at local restaurants and that Bonnie Wood, a marketing specialist for Lockn’, would be doing more to educate visitors about what is available in Nelson and the Central Virginia area.

Some area residents complained about music going on late into the night and the sound carrying for several miles. “There needs to be consideration for residents who live close by,” said Randy Helbert, who lives in Freshwater Cove.

Robert and Laura Canody, who said they live between Shipman and Lovingston, suggested the music end by 11 p.m. “We shouldn’t have to hear it at 1 a.m.,” Laura Canody said.

Frey and Festival Director Nigel James, said they were looking at re-orienting the stages so sound would travel to the south and east, rather than to the north and west. James said it might be possible to aim the speaker system lower to the ground.

Del Wood, who does marketing and promotions for the festival, said all in all, Lockn’ was a “very positive thing” for the county and the region from an economic standpoint. He said festival patrons spent 25% more than anticipated on the festival, much of it in the Central Virginia area.

Frey said they had spent $418,000 on gravel for roads, and had “cleaned out” local quarries in Nelson and Lynchburg. He said they had spent $83,000 for a traffic engineering firm to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation and State Police on traffic plans and another $60,000 on traffic cones and lighted signs. They purchased 78,000 gallons of fuel from Tiger Fuel for “a couple of hundred thousand dollars” to power temporary generators. A great deal of money was also spent on fencing.

“We expected to lose money but lost more than we thought. But we decided we could do it better. We want something for the long term that works for everybody,” Frey said. He said 63 percent of attendees were from out of state and that it was a “pretty well-off crowd.”

He asked for feedback from local businesses. “We want this to be like the New Orleans Jazz Festival. We hope a lot of people come, spend a lot of money, and leave.” The challenge, he said, was to help more people take advantage of the opportunities Lockn’ provides.



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