NORRIDGEWOCK — With the Great North Music and Arts Festival scheduled for Labor Day weekend, town officials already are growing concerned about traffic congestion on Red Barn Road during the three-day event.

On Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen and members of the Planning Board met with organizers of the event, a music festival that last year drew about 3,800 people to Last Breath Farm, to review aspects of the town’s mass-gathering ordinance, which stipulates requirements for gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

The ordinance, originally adopted in 2006, was used for the first time last year with the permitting of the festival.

“We felt the process last year was not contentious,” said Charlotte Curtis, a selectwoman and member of the Planning Board. “We felt that we worked with you, and you worked with us to get everything done. We wouldn’t have approved it if we felt you hadn’t met the conditions of the ordinance.”

Chris Cote, executive producer of the festival, and John Hicks, who works for Kind Mind Productions, the company that sponsors the festival, said they too felt that overall the process went smoothly last year.

“There are still some growing pains, but we feel we’ve isolated and targeted those things we want to work on,” Hicks told the boards.


Chief among town officials’ concerns about this year’s festival are parking, traffic congestion and noise. Last year there was congestion on Red Barn Road during and for a few days after the festival, as attendees and staff lined up to get in and out and then had to clean up the grounds, Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said. Cote and Hicks said they plan to address traffic by hiring more parking attendants and opening up the festival grounds a day early, on the Thursday before Labor Day, to facilitate entrance into the festival.

The festival this year includes acts such as comedian Reggie Watts; Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, a Grateful Dead cover band that will pay tribute to the band’s 50th anniversary; and so far 17 other live bands. Ticket sales will be capped at 5,000. Last year, about 2,100 tickets were sold and about 3,800 people attended the festival, including staff, performers and artists.

Selectman Jim Lyman said there were some noise complaints about music being played early in the morning during last year’s festival. There is no noise ordinance in Norridgewock, but the mass-gathering ordinance stipulates a maximum sound pressure level. Last year, the Planning Board gave special permission to the festival to exceed the decibel limit set from midnight to 1 a.m.

“We’re obviously not trying to disturb you, but we would like a little leeway for that one weekend,” Hicks said. He said the production teams will be working with bands and attendees to ensure that they are not making noise in violation of the ordinance. No performances will be scheduled that would project music beyond the stipulated levels after 1 a.m., he said, adding that the vitality of the festival hinges in part on its ability to play music late at night.

The Planning Board will be meeting next to discuss the festival permit in June, and Planning Board Chairman Scott Campbell asked that the organizers attend. He said parking and traffic flow are the board’s primary concerns.

Before leaving, Cote and Hicks presented the town with an offer of $4,200 — $2 from every ticket sale last year — as compensation for holding the festival there. There was discussion about what should be done with the money, and the organizers said it was up to the town.


“You can do with it what you wish,” Hicks said. “We don’t personally live here in town. You guys know how the money would best be spent.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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