BYERS — A large crowd of people turned out Tuesday to voice their feelings about a giant three-day music festival featuring The Cure, Rise Against, Primus and The Flaming Lips scheduled in September on a farm near Byers.
The future of Riot Fest in Colorado, held for the first time in the state last year at May Farms near Byers, remains uncertain as Arapahoe County officials wrestle with whether to allow the event to continue this year. No decision on the event's future was made Tuesday evening.
The festival, which boasts a robust lineup of nationally known rock and punk bands and attracted an estimated 15,000 ticketholders a day in 2013, is planned for the weekend of Sept. 19-21.
Those who packed the American Legion Hall in this small, rural town 40 miles east of Denver to address the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners offered split opinions about the benefits and problems of Riot Fest, although most leaned against the event.
Charles Avery of Byers was one of several people who complained that the festival caused traffic problems and resulted in open drug use among attendees. He said the music at last year's Riot Fest was so loud he had to close his windows.
"I don't want the traffic and the noise and the nasty things that are sold there," Avery said. "Hold your riot someplace else, and let us Byers residents live in peace and quiet."
Arnold Hollinsworth, a Byers resident, said traffic generated by the festival kept locals from getting around town and going about their business.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that Highway 36 isn't going to be able to handle the congestion from this," he said.
But others, many on the younger end of the age scale, said Riot Fest and events like it are good for the struggling economies of small eastern plains communities like Byers. Several people said Riot Fest had potential to help a "dying" town.
Cari Olson said she attended Riot Fest last year and felt that many who oppose the event aren't willing to accept a diverse crowd in town.
"I don't see anything wrong with me or people like me," she said.
Several commissioners mentioned that they had received e-mails from residents concerned about noise, hours and traffic problems from last year's Riot Fest.
"Have you looked into decibel levels?" Commissioner Nancy Sharpe asked Riot Fest organizer Max Wagner.
Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld asked Wagner what he would do in the event of a mass casualty incident that required significant medical response.
"How do we get these people triaged and into Denver when the only mechanism we have is Flight for Life?" he asked.
Wagner said his event's emergency response plan is very thorough and can handle the normal challenges of a large festival. He acknowledged that improvements can be made from the 2013 event, which was marred by heavy rain and thunderstorms and delayed musical acts into the early-morning hours.
Wagner said Riot Fest plans to boost the local economy as much as it can, from buying office supplies to fencing to water.
"The goal is spend as much money locally as we can," Wagner said. "Can we get it in Byers? Can we get it in the county? It's basically a good neighbor attitude we want to bring."
Wagner said he held an open house Monday to discuss some of the issues with the community. He said he was willing to scale back the hours a bit so the festival doesn't go so late.
The commissioners are considering two issues related to Riot Fest.
The first is a temporary use permit that the festival's producers need to hold the event. The commissioners also are mulling whether to grant a use by special review amendment allowing May Farms to expand its agritainment operations to an additional 195 acres north of I-70 to accommodate large events like Riot Fest.
More than 17,000 tickets a day are expected to be sold to this year's Riot Fest.