Woodstock braces for event crowd

5,000 heavy metal band fans expected to gather
at the fairgrounds today

By Ryan Cornell

WOODSTOCK — The 5,000 people expected to show up to listen to 30-some heavy metal bands at the Virginia Chili Cook Off on Saturday are already proving to be a boon for Woodstock businesses.

A steady line of customers was headed toward the door at the Woodstock Café & Shoppes around noon on Friday. Owner Coe Sherrard said he typically expects a large crowd on Saturdays.

“Since they’re [the cook-off] not having chili out there, our special tomorrow is chili,” he said.

As Sherrard noted, those attending the cook-off will not find chili or beer at the sold-out cook-off, and alcohol cannot be brought onto the fairgrounds. Promoters, who have not been available for comment, did not obtain a license to serve alcohol from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and vendors did not obtain temporary food permits through the health department. There will, however, be several vendors selling barbecue, pizza, burgers and hot dogs, according to fairgrounds General Manager Tom Eshelman.

Ryan Watkins, manager of Sheetz, said he was planning on hiring more help on the gas station’s day shift to tackle the extra crowds on Saturday. He compared it to preparing for the Route 11 Yard Crawl.

“Let’s buckle down and get ready,” he said.

Compared to a typical night at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, an attendance of 5,000 equates to a packed night. An earlier article by the Daily reported that more than 5,000 people showed up to the fairgrounds on Aug. 24, which set a record for the highest number of people out of any opening Saturday.

Across the street from the fairgrounds, residents of Greenfield Senior Living were staying indoors to dodge the rain on Friday. A spokeswoman with Greenfield said they didn’t become aware of the event until Thursday. She said music from the concerts and noise from the demolition derby during the Shenandoah County Fair in August could be heard right outside the living center, but said none of that sound entered the building.

“I’m sure we won’t [have a problem],” she said. “They’ll sleep right through it. They’ll take their hearing aids out.”

Metalheads attending the cook-off might have a better chance at finding a spoonful of chili than a hotel with vacancy.

Rooms at the Hampton Inn & Suites and Econo Lodge in Woodstock were completely booked for Friday and Saturday nights. The manager of the Woodstock Holiday Inn said his hotel was fully booked on Saturday night but still had a few rooms left on Friday due to recent cancellations.

A Facebook post by the Cook Off notified its fans on Oct. 3 that Adam Gontier, who was originally scheduled to perform, had canceled its cook-off show “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Brian Runzel, who was helping organize the cook-off’s volunteers, said all of the other scheduled bands will perform on Saturday.

Like the Woodstock of 1969, there is a chance of rain on Saturday — the National Weather Service reports a 50 percent chance of precipitation — but that won’t slow down the headbanging.

Runzel said the concerts will happen “rain or shine.” He said there won’t be any overlap between the performances of the nationally known headliners, but there will be multiple concerts playing at once among the local bands.

For more information, visit www.vachilicookoff.com

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com