Phish concert goers brace for the weather

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(Host) As fans of the band Phish arrived in force Friday, concert organizers grappled with the effects of the wet weather and braced for another dose of heavy rain expected to arrive later in the weekend.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports from Coventry.

(Zind) For some, the only way into the fields that serve as the concert campgrounds was at the end of a chain pulled by tractors from neighboring farms. But concert goers and staff managed to maintain a sense of humor about what is shaping up to be the wettest as well as the last big Phish event.

[Background audio] “Shoes are getting left, the end of this weekend tents are going to be left because the ground is going to be saturated with rain and this is only Friday. That’s right, Friday the 13th.”

(Zind) By midmorning traffic was backed up almost 30 miles from the concert site south on Interstate 91. Police estimated 38,000 people were waiting to join more than 20,000 already on site. Some concert goers waited in traffic twelve hours or more. Even for those coming from far away the last few miles were the longest part of the trip.

[Concert goer] “Our story is we traveled from Australia to come to Coventry and apart from being very tired from the trip we’re good up for it.”

(Zind) Vermont State Police say the weather may have had the advantage of discouraging people without tickets from making the trip to Coventry.

At the concert site a water truck overturned with injuries reported. But police say that’s one of the few serious incidents reported.

Police are monitoring the roads from a command center in a dark green RV packed with computers and communications gear.

A few feet away on the vast open field known as the Commons, vendors waited for customers who had to wade through ankle deep mud to order refreshments and food. 14-year-old Dagan Selbach-Broad who’s attended each of the annual outdoor Phish events is helping his father sell lemonade.

[Selbach-Broad] “We haven’t been getting that many people…about three people.”

(Zind) Organizers are hauling in tons of bark mulch to keep the mud at bay. And there are other worries. Some areas of fields intended for camping are underwater and new campsites have to be found.

And while they’re dealing with these immediate concerns, organizers are also keeping an eye on the weather. Dave Werlin heads Great Northeast Productions, the concert promoter. Werlin says he’s less concerned about the rains in the forecast than the possibility of high winds which could jeopardize the Sunday show.

(Werlin) There’s a possibility…we’ll just play that as we see it.

(Zind) Werlin says it’s not lost on him that this is the anniversary of another wet and muddy concert of historic proportions. On the wall of his small office in a trailer backstage, Werlin has hung framed photographs of Woodstock – A concert Werlin says he attended 35 years ago.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Coventry.

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