The Pendleton Whisky Music Fest is bigger than ever, which means coordinating the event is becoming a larger task.
Whisky Fest co-organizer Andy McAnally recently posted to Facebook about some of the new steps the city is taking for the concert featuring Pitbull and Blake Shelton.
McAnally wrote that Whisky Fest is expecting 18,500 attendees, 2,000 more than last year. That group will include an expected 700 campers, who will be spread out between the Pendleton Convention Center parking lot, Fallen Field, Babe Ruth Park, the Indian Village, and the empty lot west of Wal-Mart.
Anticipating a crowd to rival Round-Up, McAnally explained some of the preparations and new features meant to accommodate the crush of concert goers.
Transportation and parking
When the powers-that-be close one large lot to concert parking, they open up a second one.
While campers will be occupying the convention center lot and it will be unavailable for parking, McAnally said in an interview they expect the newly expanded Albertsons lot graveled in time for the concert.
As of Tuesday afternoon, contractors working for the Round-Up had completely demolished the building and were leveling the ground.
In the lots near the arena, parking will likely cost $20 for the night.
Whisky Fest is also expanding shuttle service from three buses to nine.
Starting at 2:30 p.m., shuttles will pick up attendees from the Best Western Hotel at 400 S.E. Nye Ave. and the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce at 501 S. Main St., and drop them off at the Pendleton Grain Growers parking lot on Dorion Avenue, a block away from the Round-Up Grounds.
The service stops at 7 p.m. and resumes from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. to drop off concert-goers back at their hotels or Main Street.
Additionally, St. Anthony Hospital is sponsoring free van rides around town from Elite Taxi after the concert ends.
Following the concert, Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said authorities will close the parts of Southwest Court and Dorion avenues near the stadium to make space for buses and pedestrians.
Although he’s sending out officers to 12 fluid locations around the arena, Roberts said law enforcement is in a “no-win situation” when it comes to managing traffic after the concert.
Unlike the Round-Up, where attendees trickle out of the arena as the rodeo wears on, the Whisky Fest audience all leave at once when the concert ends.
Roberts said Pendleton simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to contain that many people leaving at once, and even with extra preparation and accommodations, traffic may be at a standstill for a while.
Roberts is encouraging concert-goers to use the free shuttles, especially considering that some impatient drivers will likely try a risky maneuver or ignore police direction while trying to navigate traffic.
Food and drink
To alleviate crowding around the food vending area, McAnally wrote that Whisky Fest is expanding its lineup of vendors and spreading them out into two separate food courts.
The two courts will be housed under canopies behind the south grandstands and the west grandstands.
Whisky Fest also wants to avoid the long lines at the alcohol booths from the inaugural event and is continuing to encourage buying drink tickets, the only way to buy alcoholic drinks at the event, before the concert starts.
A pre-event tent will sell drink tickets at Roy Raley Park starting at 1 p.m.
All food, drink tickets, and merchandise must be bought with cash. ATMs will be located across the Round-Up Grounds.
This year, Whisky Fest organizers are installing sod around the arena’s dirt track for the concert’s new premium arena tickets.
According to McAnally, 50 tickets are still available for the $175 seats, which provide a ground-level view of the stage, a special private entrance near Dairy Queen, and early access to the stadium.
Once the concert is over, concert organizers plan to donate the sod to the Pendleton School District to improve its athletic fields.
Whisky Fest will also bring back its Friday night kick-off party, which will be expanded this year.
The free event on Main Street will feature food vendors opening at 4 p.m. and alcohol stands opening at 6 p.m.
Entertainment will be provided by Precious Byrd, a rock band, and DJ Sovern-T.
Shuttles from the campsites to Main Street and back will run every half-hour from 6 p.m. to midnight.