By John Aguilar and Matt Miller
The Denver Post
With Riot Fest scheduled in Byers less than three months away, it’s not known what might happen to the three-day punk and rock festival — and the thousands of fans who plan to attend — should Arapahoe County deny a permit for the show.
County commissioners on Tuesday night listened to several hours of comments from residents of Byers, an agricultural community 40 miles east of Denver, many of whom said traffic problems, drug use and noise levels arising from last year’s Riot Fest made it an unwelcome event this year.
The county must decide whether to issue festival organizers a temporary use permit, without which the Sept. 19-21 show at May Farms can’t go on.
An Arapahoe County spokeswoman said Wednesday that a decision probably will be made by the zoning division within 10 days.
Riot Fest, which draws acts from the U.S. and abroad such as Primus, The Cure, Wu-Tang Clan and Slayer, is expected to attract 17,000 people a day.
George Whitesell, owner of Colorado Springs-based promotions outfit A Music Company Inc., said he wouldn’t be surprised if organizers are in a bit of a “panic mode” at this point, given the fact that lower-priced tickets for the festival already are sold out.
“It’s not a good situation for a promoter to be in,” he said. “Contracts have been signed with artists.”
Whitesell said he had to scramble a few years ago when Blues Under the Bridge, a Colorado Springs festival that his company runs, was nearly derailed because of unfiled paperwork.
The difference, he said, was that his festival is about 10 times smaller than Riot Fest and he had four months to correct a relatively minor problem. Finding a new venue for Riot Rest this late, he said, would be “highly improbable.”
“I don’t know what I’d do,” Whitesell said. “I’d hate to be in those shoes.”
Organizers for Riot Fest were decidedly mum Wednesday and did not return multiple calls and e-mails for comment.
Silent too was the festival’s PR firm, Western Publicity. Its Denver-based promotions partner, Soda Jerk Presents, referred questions back to festival personnel.
Riot Fest organizer Max Wagner told Reverb last week that he’s “confident that we’re going to get to a place where the commissioners, the local community leaders are happy.”
Gavin Beldt, who helped organize this weekend’s South Park Music Festival in Fairplay, said if the permit is denied and there is no backup plan in place, Riot Fest organizers would have to issue refunds to everyone who purchased tickets.
Beldt said it’s common for local authorities not to grant permits until a week or two before an event, but he said organizers are generally confident that approval from the city or county is forthcoming.
“Something pretty extravagant would have to happen to pull the plug,” Beldt said. “As long as the (Riot Fest) team can prevail and show they’re a responsible group, I don’t see why (Arapahoe County officials) would not grant that.”