Saturday September 15, 2012

LENOX -- Despite reports on Friday that the event might be canceled, this weekend’s BerkshireStock outdoor music festival will take place as scheduled at Eastover Resort beginning this morning.

Town officials and Eastover co-owner Yingxing Wang ag reed Friday afternoon that a scaled-down version of the festival could take place after concerns were once again raised about security issues. The gates open at 8 a.m. today. The music begins at 9 a.m.

In a last-minute agreement, Eastover hired MJ Norton Security, a professional agency out of Chicopee, for the festival.

In a previous agreement with the town of Lenox and Eastover, attendance will be capped at 800 since the event will be monitored by a licensed, insured, bonded security firm.

"We got the call at about 10:30 this morning," said Micheal Drolet, the field operations manager for MJ Norton. "It’s been a little hectic. We’ve had to rearrange people’s schedules and get everyone together."

Drolet said 10 security personnel, most of them with military background, from MJ Norton will be working the event all weekend, and were to report to Eastover’s grounds on East Street at midnight Saturday. A handful of other burly security guards not affiliated with MJ Norton were at a meeting Friday evening, exchanging ideas and filling out paperwork.

"We’re going to de-escalate any issues that happen," Drolet said at the meeting.

Wang brought in a shopping bag full of orange flashlights and netted jerseys for personnel to wear through the weekend to better distinguish those in charge over the weekend.

Though at the meeting, Lenox Police Chief Stephen O’Brien mostly hung back and let Drolet take charge. Lenox police will not be monitoring the BerkshireStock crowds.

"We’ll be responsible for getting the traffic off the roads," O’Brien said. "We won’t be in here unless we’re called."

An attendance estimate was unavailable, O’Brien said, making it uncertain how many people will be on the grounds at any given time.

"I’m not familiar with the bands’ music, but some of the names of them -- like White Trash and XXX -- make me worry about what kind of clientele they’ll bring in," O’Brien said. "There’s a lot of uncertainty right now."

Had Eastover not landed a professional agency, and just limited to the informal team of resort crew members and volunteers, the crowd would have been limited to 500.

Federspiel met with Wang on Friday to express concern over potential public-safety issues because Eastover had been unable to hire a professional security force after three attempts this week.

In addition, the Lenox and Lee police departments, state police, and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office all declined to take on the assignment on short notice.

"Things are proceeding, they’re finalizing security," Federspiel said Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, he told Wang that the event might have to be canceled, and the town would lift Eastover’s entertainment license, unless adequate security arrangements for the music festival could be made.

"It’s a first-time test run," said Federspiel. "She wants to make this a success and she’s agreeable to going forward as outlined. She’s very comfortable with the attendance cap.

"I wish them well and I think talk about thousands of people was unwarranted and unncessary. Let’s take it one step at a time, and if it grows into a bigger event next year, let’s make sure the plans are set well in advance."

Federspiel said the town could pull Eastover’s entertainment license if public safety appears to be threatened. The deadline to make a final decision on whether the festival would take place was originally set for noon Friday. But Federspiel extended it when Wang appealed for more time to negotiate with two unspecified security firms.

The festival, featuring about 40 local and regional bands is scheduled to take place through 9 p.m. Sunday. Over night camping, and sales of food, beer and wine will be allowed on the resort property. Alcoholic beverages cannot to be brought onto the premises.

On Friday morning, Wang told The Eagle that she had assembled a security patrol consisting of at least 20 people, including "our own crew, local security guards from various events, and volunteers. As things develop, we can always call more people in."

"The whole community is very supportive," she maintained. Wang added that "we are in contact with the sheriff’s office and the state police."

According to Wang, who described the festival as a family-friendly affair, Eastover had been prepared to handle as many as 10,000 concertgoers, though she had expected between 2,000 to 5,000 before the town imposed a limit.

"Most of the people who have booked tickets are families with kids coming with campers or RVs," she said. "People are very, very respectful -- they ask us what they can bring, what they cannot bring. I don’t see any kind of trouble looming or whatever. I see it as a wonderful event for the local community."

To reach Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto