PITTSLYVANIA COUNTY, Va. – Pittsylvania County leaders unanimously approved what’s being billed as the second-largest rock festival in North America Tuesday night.
The Blue Ridge Rock Fest will bring names like Rob Zombie, Limp Bizkit and Lil Jon to the site near Blairs in September.
Jonathan Slye owns Purpose Driven Events and is organizing the festival. He attended the meeting Tuesday night and said he’s thankful to have the opportunity to make something of this scale come to life.
“I can’t thank the Pittsylvania County team enough as well as our staff that quite literally has spent 12 hour days, seven days a week to put this together,” Slye said.
The board approved the festival’s permit after a few locals spoke out during a hearing of citizens. While the festival has been a point of contention in the community, some see it as a place for cooperation. Avery Cox lives right next to the venue and said he supports the festival but wants to make sure his family including his three daughters are safe.
“I do believe it brings more jobs to our area as even though a lot of the guests are out of the area and not going to relocate here, but it does have a lot of pros and cons,” Cox said.
The festival is expected to draw 35,000 people a day with 20,000 of them expected to camp out at the venue. Last month the board updated its festival ordinance, untouched since the 70′s, to reflect the needs of a large-scale festival in today’s environment. The festival will be bound to regulations that manage traffic, noise, sanitation and other logistical facets of the operation.
Slye relocated the festival, which began five years ago in Campbell County, to the Old White Oak Amphitheatre and Campground off Route 29 north of Blairs after outgrowing the former space. It’s grown every year, and this year’s lineup is being billed as “the strongest lineup since Woodstock ‘99″ according to music writers Slye said. There’s also a country music and Christian music festival slated for this fall as well.
Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors member Vic Ingram said rock music wasn’t his personal taste but said it’s a huge opportunity for a sleepy community like Pittsylvania County.
“And if we deprive Purpose Driven Events of the privilege of coming here, they chose to come here we didn’t solicit them, the opportunity of bringing something to this county in essence that we’ve never had before we might as well turn out the lights and go home,” Ingram said.
But some folks are still skeptics and the county sheriff said he investigated some out-of-town concertgoers for harassing locals online. Slye said it equated to some online trolling and fully participated in the investigation. Sheriff Mike Taylor said no charges were filed.
Board chairman Bob Warren spoke directly to Slye toward the end of the meeting in his final comments, removing his glasses and didn’t mince his words.
“I want you to look at these seven men that have put their confidence in you, please don’t let us down and please don’t disappoint these folks,” Warren said.
Slye said he’s up to that challenge and is ready to be a partner in this community. He added that things won’t go 100% right the first time, but they are ready to make adjustments on the fly.
“I think that we’re going to be very well prepared, I think we’ve over-planned for this festival and I believe we’re truly going to do our best to take care of the citizens, take care of our patrons, and take care of all the different officials that have given us this great opportunity,” Slye said.
The board also approved a 2% increase in the county meals tax, as well as a new tax on hotels and other short-term rentals. They hope to capitalize on this festival and the other country and Christian music festivals at the site to help pay county bills.