Blue Ridge Rock Festival increases safety ahead of record-breaking number of fans

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 6:02 PM EDT
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ALTON, Va. (WDBJ) - The Blue Ridge Rock Festival begins Thursday and organizers say they’ve made some changes this year to improve the fan experience.

The four-day, sold out rock festival at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) will feature over 150 artists such as Shinedown, Slipknot and Papa Roach.

The founder says more than 50,000 tickets were sold this year, making it the largest rock and metal festival in North America.

“Building Blue Ridge was taking what we’re seeing on a club level on an indoor smaller scale, and starting to find a way to be able to build something bigger, that can be an event here in small-town Virginia, to help this passionate community continue to have a place that’s really a rock and metal oasis for them,” said Jonathan Slye, Founder of Blue Ridge Rock Fest.

This year, they redesigned the layout to make access to the stages easier for fans. They’ve also made efforts to make finding EMS tents, ambulances, and water stations easier for guests.

“They really listened to the fans,” said Kerrigan Smith, President and COO of VIR. “There was a lot of hiking that had to go on to get from stage to stage. So, this year, they came back and looked at it very differently with how to get the fans quickly to the stages that they need to be at.”

Last year, they experienced issues with shuttling guests to and from the parking lots. They say this time, they are using their own shuttle buses instead of going through another company.

“This year, we just went ahead and said ‘alright, we’re gonna take that into our own hands.’ We have tons of buses staged and ready to go. I think proof is going to be in the pudding. People will know when they see all these buses showing up that we took it very seriously.”

They also started letting fans in in the morning before the festival, and expanded arrival times to help with traffic.

“I feel that it’s way better than where we were last year. Security right now is rolling in the campers and we are way ahead of where we were last year with that. Everything’s coming together very well.”

The festival will continue through Sunday night.