Saguache County Sheriff hosts music festival recap

Photo by Patrick Shea

SAGUACHE — During a special meeting with residents on Sept. 27, Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick provided details and fielded questions about the Seven Peaks Music Festival held outside of Villa Grove over Labor Day Weekend.

More than 20 people from Villa Grove and throughout the county came to the Saguache Road and Bridge meeting room to share observations and concerns about the first-time event in Saguache County.

“Tonight, we’re in the problem identification stage,” Commissioner Lynne Thompson announced at the start of the meeting.

Representing Villa Grove, Kelly Marshall had already compiled comments and concerns from residents and provided them to commissioners before the meeting. Thompson read through the list and then encouraged others to raise additional concerns.

Multiple residents shared their observations. The dust and pollution affected respiration. Increased data traffic degraded local cell phone service, an added difficulty for business owners. People drove too fast along Highway 285, sometimes creating a third lane. Pedestrians crossing the highway needed a crosswalk. The community needed a chance to provide input earlier. The lights were too bright. Perhaps orient the stage to direct the sound away from town.

Thompson later announced positive remarks. The event was well organized. Traffic was better than expected. The trash pickup process was good, and it wasn’t too loud.

Some residents questioned whether the event organizers — Live Nation — should apply for a conditional use permit instead of a special use permit. For the county coffers, special use permit fees bring in less than conditional use permits, and they are for one-time events. Live Nation would need to apply every year.

One community member said organizers at the event announced on-stage their intention of coming back for years to come. Warwick explained that they would need to apply regardless of what was said at the festival.

“They’ll still go through the same process,” Warwick said. “As a county, we’ll get people involved a lot earlier.”

Commissioner Tom McCracken said the board considered a short moratorium on special use permits for larger events like the Seven Peaks Music Festival while they revisit the application itself. Thompson echoed their goal to manage smaller events while considering all they have learned from the festival, the first of its kind in the county.

Although they have not received sales tax figures for September, commissioners are examining extra revenue for the future. For example, the tickets did not include sales tax, and no lodging tax was charged for the “glamping” and other camping on-site.

Local business owners also recommended another weekend for the festival because they saw a drop in Labor Day revenue, traditionally one of the biggest weekends of the year.

From the Bureau of Land Management perspective, Assistant Manager Dario Archuleta said he “thought it went well.” Fewer people camped on BLM land nearby than he expected, and he saw no impacts to grazing permittees.

Speaking for Villa Grove, Marshall told the board and audience that Live Nation’s, “Jim Reid took us on a tour. I observed him engage in conversations with safety agencies. It made me feel confident because he was ‘boots on the ground.’ And he took time after the event. He met with a small group to hear our comments.”

Warwick gave his final assessment before the meeting adjourned.

“I think it went better than I expected,” Warwick said. “We made only a couple arrests that weekend and issued one citation.”

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