The Blue Ridge Rock Festival is in full swing at Virginia International Raceway, bringing unprecedented crowds to Halifax County.
Thousands of heavy metal and rock music fans will listen to their favorite bands at the rural Alton venue throughout the weekend.
Halifax County Administrator Scott Simpson gave an update on plans for the festival Tuesday evening at the county board of supervisors meeting. Simpson estimated it would bring a crowd of 35,000 people to Halifax County for the four-day festival, which started Thursday.
“It’s a lot of people. It’s going to double the population of Halifax County for the weekend,” Simpson told the supervisors.
It is the first time the fan-driven rock festival has been held in Halifax County. Last year’s event was hosted in Pittsylvania County. Simpson related that VIR informed the county in February they had been approached by Blue Ridge Rock Festival managers, Purpose Driven Events, about holding the festival there.
“The thought process was that VIR has the infrastructure and manages large events on a continual basis,” Simpson explained.
The festival will feature five stages of music, with entertainment starting at noon and not ending until about 2 a.m. the next morning each day of the festival. Two of those stages are on a grand scale.
“The two large stages that are side by side are two of the largest stages in the country,” Simpson shared, adding, “It’s been amazing to see that grow out of the middle of a field.”
Out of the roughly 35,000 people expected to attend, Simpson said between 25,000 and 28,000 of them would be camping on the grounds of VIR and would remain on site for the entirety of the festival, cutting down on the amount of traffic on the surrounding roadways.
“The traffic has been the largest concern that we have had for the whole event,” Simpson said. He noted the Virginia Department of Transportation and state police have a traffic plan in place. He said all the roads coming off Highway 119 leading into VIR would be closed off to through traffic, with the exception of event traffic and residents accessing their homes in that area, and state police would be on site to direct motorists around the barricades.
The issue of parking was also brought to the county administrator’s attention as a concern from past festivals. Simpson outlined a detailed plan for parking at the festival.
“No one is allowed to park onsite if you’re not camping,” Simpson said. “The remote parking is in two locations. One is at the Danville-Pittsylvania County Fairgrounds and they’ll have shuttles to and from the festival. The second parking is at Bar 119. They will be shuttled in and around Sunset Drive and into the festival.”
Simpson also noted campers at the festival have been directed to wait until 8:30 or 9 a.m. to start heading out on Monday morning, giving school buses time to get students to school prior to their departure.
The Blue Ridge Rock Festival is funneling a significant amount of revenue to Halifax County. Simpson estimated the event would generate between $500,000 and $700,000 in revenue from sales, lodging and meals taxes inside the walls of the venue. He said that does not even include meals tax revenue from tourists eating in Halifax County restaurants or lodging tax from the visitors staying at local hotels, which are “jam packed” this weekend.
Mitzi McCormick, president/CEO of the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, further commented on the positive impact she anticipates the Blue Ridge Rock Festival will have on local businesses.
“Although a large number of attendees will be camping, the number of people traveling in for the concert will still benefit our local business community including our hotels and restaurants,” McCormick said. “I think this event is exciting for VIR and I am happy they were able to serve as the venue for the festival. Overall, I think our community will reap the benefits in tax revenue as well.”
If everything goes according to plan, Simpson told the supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting the Blue Ridge Rock Festival would be a success and benefit all parties involved. He added the festival is a culmination of six to seven months of careful planning.
“We have a narrative for everything. As long as everybody executes what they’re supposed to do, the event should come off really well for the promoters, the county and our citizens,” Simpson told supervisors. “We have plans that range from camping, food vending, refueling, artist management, security, safety, fire and EMS.”
Detailing plans for security, Simpson said the Blue Ridge Rock Festival is providing their own security for the event but the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office would provide “conditional staff” on site for some of the security. He said the county would be compensated by festival management for providing that extra security.
ED-8 Supervisor William Bryant Claiborne brought up the concern that the county does not have an adequate amount of insurance coverage in the case of a safety-related incident occurring at the festival, resulting in the county being sued for that incident.
“I pray that nothing happens, but if something happens, we could be sued too, because we’re getting money from it,” Claiborne said. “It’s too late to deal with the insurance now, but in the future, I suggest to the board that we do consider something like this.”
Simpson told Claiborne the Blue Ridge Rock Festival is providing the county a $13 million general liability policy for the festival.