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July 11, 2013

Cooperstown readies for Deadheads

The Daily Star

---- — Cooperstown is getting ready for the Dead — sort of. 

Further, the Grateful Dead legacy band that features original Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, will perform in concert at Doubleday Field on Sunday. 

The concert is expected to bring with it some of the trappings associated with the Dead’s followers, including the unofficial black market known as “Shakedown Street,” where Dead fans peddle bootlegs, shirts, stuffed bears and sometimes drugs. 

Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said that he is trying to put the word out to the band’s followers that sales of legal souvenirs will be allowed if contained to the village parking lot on Chestnut Street.

“Usually we require outside vendors to have a permit,” Katz said. “We’re not going to catch those people in this process. What we are trying to do is filter it into the parking lot.”

Despite Katz’ desire to allow the band’s fans to congregate, Cooperstown police chief Mike Covert told the Crier that his officers aren’t going to allow illegal activity.

“We’ve never really cracked down inside the stadium. We will make rounds inside the concert, but that is not our primary concern,” he said. “Of course if someone is stupid enough to (do drugs) in front of us, we are going to detain them, and issue a court summons. What we don’t want is it spilling out into the streets. That’s my major concern. We will have police outside the concert to make sure nothing gets out of control.”

Likewise, although beer will be sold at the concert – a deal breaker in the contract with promoter Magic City Promotions, according to Katz – open containers and public drunkenness will not be tolerated outside the venue.

Despite the concerns about the band’s fans, village officials were clearly aware that the visitors will not be typical young concertgoers. The Grateful Dead’s heyday was the 1970s and the Further fans will skew older. Village trustee Bruce Maxson is a big fan; Covert himself admits to going to Dead and Further concerts, including one recently.

“At Bethel Woods, they had 470 arrests,” Covert said. “The biggest problem was trespassing because they were sleeping everywhere. That’s why we need to focus where they go.”

Katz, who had said previously that fans would be allowed to park overnight, emphasized that camping was not on the agenda. 

“I think that was taken out of context a little bit,” Covert agreed. “We’re not going to let people camp outside or sleep in tents or anything. If people wanted to sleep in their cars overnight (at the Blue Lot) after the concert, then that would be okay.”

The concert has not been without controversy. 

The village got a letter from lawyers representing Cooperstown Central School, Green and Green Attorneys at Law, that expressed concern for school property adjacent to the Blue Lot. 

The letter, which was dated June 12, asked that the village add the school district to its insurance, inform school officials about security plans and agree to take responsibility for clean-up and possible damages.

Although no action has been taken in terms of insurance, Katz said that he has assured the school officials that the village is going to take responsibility for protecting local properties, including CCS.

“We’re going to have extra patrols. We’re going to enforce the laws. We’re going to do everything we can to protect their property,” Katz said. 

The village also received a letter from Lucia Colone, an Elm Street resident whose property borders Doubleday Field.

Colone expressed concerns about “traffic, blocked driveways and buses left running that spew diesel fuel into homes, and people milling about on the street near the back entrance,” issues she said were in evidence at past concerts on the field. 

“I take great pride in my home and work hard to preserve it,” Colone’s letter concludes. “I expect that those elected officials for this village make the residents a top priority in the decisions made that impact them.”

Katz said that he has not heard any ticket sales figures from Magic City Promotions, the company that is promoting the concert, but that he expects slightly less than the 8,000 people he originally projected.

He also said that, contrary to some speculations, the village is “not in the concert business.”

“We’re strictly renting out Doubleday Field,” he said.

As part of the agreement, the village will receive $2 of each ticket sold by the promoter and also had 3,000 tickets to sell through the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. Katz said the chamber had sold about 500 tickets as of last week.

This is the first concert at Doubleday Field since the 2010 Sugarland performance. While a lot of the logistical concerns for putting on a show are the same, Further’s fan base is different than that of Sugarland, which plays country music.

“That’s the biggest difference,” Katz said. “This is a specific scene that has a unique problem, and how do we deal with it.”

But Katz said that, despite the concerns he has heard, the village is prepared for what may come.

“It would be nice if we could have a day without rain for the concert, though,” Katz added.