Music festival called a success

By Ryan Cornell

WOODSTOCK — Chili vendors pulled out less than two weeks before the event. Ticketholders demanded refunds en masse. Rain soaked the fields and concertgoers.

The Virginia Chili Cook-Off, held at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds on Saturday, contained all the ingredients for failure. But according to local business owners and town officials, the heavy metal music festival was a resounding success.

Fairgrounds General Manager Tom Eshelman said more than 3,300 people attended the cook-off.

“This event had catastrophe written all over it,” he said.

Eshelman said the way the event was planned and promoted caused some headaches, but it attracted a large crowd that had a positive impact on the business community.

“Even with all the problems the promoter had, the actual concerts went without a hitch,” he said.

Woodstock Town Manager Reid Wodicka said he received a few complaints from residents in the immediate area of the fairgrounds about the noise coming from the concerts, which lasted until 11:15 p.m.

Eshelman said the concerts were scheduled to end at 11 p.m. and were allowed to continue until midnight. He said he received just two complaints about noise from the cook-off.

He said nearby businesses told him the music was no louder than the events that were held at the Shenandoah County Fair.

“The dB [decibel] scale is no louder than country concerts, but with heavy metal, some of these pounding thuds seem to shrivel up your body,” he said.

Although Woodstock doesn’t have a noise ordinance, Wodicka said these complaints are something the town takes seriously.

The cook-off was organized by Jonathan Slye, a 19-year-old student attending Liberty University.

Wodicka said that when Slye faced some problems putting the event together, his father, an Arlington church pastor, stepped in to help.

Slye graced the headlines of CNN, the Washington City Paper and WUSA-9 when he organized a Christian rock festival in May 2011.

The WUSA article reported: “When Carmela [Brittingham, Bull Run Regional Park events specialist] first talked to Jonathan Slye, she realized he had never organized a concert before, because he didn’t know anything about contracts or permits. But she did not know he was only 17.”

The fairgrounds provided rental of the site at a discounted rate because the proceeds from the event were going toward breast cancer awareness. The name of the breast cancer organization being benefited could not be procured.

Wodicka said extra law enforcement personnel was used on Saturday for traffic control and to respond to calls.

Eshelman said law enforcement did an outstanding job. “Their interaction with the attendees was fabulous.”

He said the average age of the people attending the festival was between 35 and 45 years old.

Eshelman said the event promoters provided volunteers for parking, ticketing and security, and paid for the Dumpster, janitorial and maintenance staff.

Janice Casto represents the county’s hotels in the Shenandoah County Tourism Council.

“The fairgrounds have been there for an awful lot of years,” she said. “If you buy property adjacent to the fairgrounds, to me it’s reasonable to expect there’s going to be occasional upheavals.”

Casto, who works as the director of sales in the neighboring Comfort Inn, said she didn’t receive much negative feedback at all other than the few grumbles about the noise that could be heard outside. The nightly rate for a room at the hotel was $135, which she said matched other Woodstock hotels.

“We found that the cars were all gone [after the concert], there was no hanging around afterward,” she said. “Once the concert was done, everyone was very quickly and orderly gone.”

She said she hopes the fairgrounds hosts a similar event in the future.

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