BottleRock Napa Valley organizers say inaugural music festival a success
Published: Monday, May 13, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.
NAPA — BottleRock will return next year, an organizer vowed Monday as Napa took stock of a wild week that included massive but mostly well-behaved crowds getting their groove on.
The music festival lit up Napa in a way never before witnessed in Wine Country. A crowd estimated by festival organizers at well over 100,000 flowed into the city over the course of five days to rock out to more than 60 bands, nosh on gourmet food and partake of merlot and other mind-altering substances.
After five days of amplified music blaring across this city of 78,000, Napa was back to its down-tempo beat.
At the Napa Valley Expo, crews continued the massive task of cleaning up after the masses and tearing down the stages where the likes of Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon and The Black Keys held forth.
“We got bills to pay. Thank God for these people, they got work,” Napa resident Frank Rodriguez said as he raked trash in a field in front of the festival's main stage. Rodriguez said he was being paid $15 an hour for the work.
A tent city that temporarily went up at Skyline Park and drew campers from around the world to attend BottleRock was gone by mid-morning Monday. But electronic signs on highways leading into Napa still flashed directions for where people could park for the event.
BottleRock organizers are planning to re-start the party next Mother's Day weekend, albeit for three days instead of five. They accomplished what many said couldn't be done, and that was to bring a major music festival to the heart of this small city without it going up in flames.
“There's always the risk of some weirdness when people start drinking wine before noon under a hot sun, but for the most part, it was really great,” said Gabe Meyers, who co-founded BottleRock with partner Bob Vogt.
Meyers said the event was held for five days this year mainly to accommodate hip-hop sensations Macklemore and Ryan Lewis last Wednesday.
“Candidly, that was probably a big bite, but it was also a great way to test all three stages to see if they worked, and to test our traffic plan to see if that worked,” he said.
Organizers stumbled early on with shuttles and re-entry policies. But things seemed to be working better by the weekend, when the largest crowds descended. Organizers estimated the crowds on peak days to be about 35,000. They've not released specific ticket sales.
Meyers said BottleRock may break even financially, something he said would be almost unheard of for similar events in the first year.
He also hinted that organizers may attempt smaller music events at the Napa Valley Expo later this year.
“There's interest. We're just not ready yet to jump into that,” he said.
As for the line-up at next year's BottleRock, Meyers would say only that it will include “some legendary names.”
Tickets went on sale Sunday for $329 for a three-day pass, which is the same cost for a similar pass this year. Early birds can get a $50 discount by using the code “2014.”
Meyers said organizers have not decided whether the festival will offer higher-priced VIP tickets. “We want to be more definitive of what a VIP is,” he said.
BottleRock included expected headaches with traffic, but no lengthy street closures or major crashes.
“Honestly, we didn't have any real big issues during the BottleRock event. We were very pleased with it,” said Napa CHP Sgt. William Bradshaw.
Napa Police made 24 arrests tied to BottleRock during the festival's five-day run. Those mostly were for public intoxication, Captain Jeff Troendly said.
“The patrons were respectful to the event, and to the neighborhood, for the most part,” Troendly said.
Mike Hurley, who lives with his wife, Colleen, in a house adjacent to the expo, said the streets in their neighborhood were so well-maintained during the event that the couple did not have to pick up a single piece of trash.
He said event organizers lived up to their promises to minimize impacts on neighbors.
“I'm all for it next year,” Hurley said.
One festival vendor on Monday said the crowds at BottleRock seemed better-behaved than at similar events.
“It was more about the wine, music and experience, and less about a raging party,” said Kathryn O'Connor with Free People, an apparel company based in Philadelphia.
Troendly said police exercised “great discretion” during the festival, letting private security or the on-site medical staff handle problems that otherwise might have resulted in a trip downtown to the city's jail.
He said Napa police received about 200 administrative calls related to BottleRock, for things ranging from noise to questions about where to find lost-and-found or shuttles to the parking lot.
Local businesses reported mixed results from the festival.
Thomas and Fagiani's Bar did two to three times the business it normally would have done when BottleRock was going, said Marion Emmanuelle, marketing director of the AvroKO Hospitality Group, which owns the establishment.
Other downtown establishments did not have the same result. Some experienced less business than normal, because many local residents avoided the area and festival attendees mostly kept to the expo until the music ended at 10 p.m.
“I think we expected more of a dinner crowd,” said Kayla Headley, a bartender at Carpe Diem restaurant and wine bar on Second Street.
She said the wine bar did get a bump later in the evening from the “late-night drunken crowd” spilling out of BottleRock.
As she unloaded groceries outside her Third Street home Monday, Gemini Garcia said she and her family were “exhausted” by the noise and crowds.
“The music wasn't the worst part. It was the drunks. The locals,” she said.
The massage therapist said she had no clients booked for the week of BottleRock, a fact she attributed to people buying tickets to the festival as Mother's Day gifts instead of traditional offerings such as massages or flowers.
While Garcia was disappointed to hear that BottleRock will be held over Mother's Day weekend again next year, she expressed enthusiasm for it being held for only three days.
“I can handle that,” she said.
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