Businesses express concerns for Blue Ridge Rock Festival traffic

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 7:21 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ALTON, Va. (WDBJ) - Thousands of fans made their way to the Blue Ridge Rock Festival Wednesday, bringing some traffic issues to the area.

Organizers say they sold over 50,000 tickets this year, breaking last year’s attendance record. Some attendees and locals say they had to sit in traffic for up to 12 hours Wednesday due to the number of visitors.

One fan says his friend experienced traffic picking him up from the airport as he came all the way from London to experience the festival.

“My friend did when she came, picked me up from the airport, which was just yesterday,” said Robert Lipscombe, Blue Ridge Rock Festival guest. “On the way here, it wasn’t too bad, but that was only because we came up early. We heard that later on from other friends that the traffic was pretty bad.”

One restaurant in Milton closed early Wednesday afternoon because of the standstill traffic.

“We hadn’t had hardly any customers at all,” said Arlene Dalton, owner of Aunt Millie’s. “To pay the staff,, the electricity, and keep it going, I just thought it best for us to close yesterday.”

Another stayed open late to help those who were stuck.

“I had so many people coming in, getting bottles of water and using the restroom,” said Samantha McCraw, owner of Samantha’s Hometown Grill. “I just figured I should stay open, but seeing them still backed up at 10:30 last night, that’s when I stopped cooking just because I ran out of product.”

VIR said they lost many of their staff to “heat strokes,” playing a big role in the traffic jam. They also heightened security this year, slowing the traffic.

“The inspections were taking sometimes five minutes to get people out of the car to be able to search the car to look for weapons,” said Kerrigan Smith, COO and President of VIR. “Some groups lost half their staff and security was dropping out. We had to do IV for the search dogs. There was a lot to it, but on the bright side to that, we also learned a lot about how we can take care of the workers and prepare ourselves a little bit better for those conditions.”

VIR says it will be working with local agencies to make traffic improvements next year.