Friday, July 27, 2012

What was the impact of MASSV?

Organizers, city say event was good for image, economy

Express Staff Writer

The MASSV party moved to Main Street on Saturday night, where an all-night street party resulted in several calls to the Ketchum Fire Department and two serious injuries. Still, emergency officials said the number of incidents during MASSV was about on par with any major concert. Courtesy photo by Liberty Films

In the wake of the valley's first Music and Arts Showcase Sun Valley—more commonly known as MASSV—organizer Brent Russell said he's accomplished his goal to appeal to the youth both inside and outside the valley.

"My goal here was to have fun and help the valley," he said. "It was a really big fun thing for a lot of people."

MASSV spanned two days, included bands with styles from soul to hip-hop and electronic dance, and drew an estimated 2,000 people to the Simplot lot in Ketchum and Main Street downtown over the weekend of July 13-14.

The event spurred six emergency room visits—including two that involved a man falling off a single-story roof on Main Street—but Russell, emergency responders and Ketchum city staff all said the event generally went smoothly and was successful in drawing people to the valley.

The festival never would have fallen into place without the help of co-worker and Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall, and subsequent support from the city of Ketchum.

Russell said that when he first invested in the festival earlier this year, he mentioned his new venture to Hall, who was "really excited." Following the April 22 death of Boise resident Zach Peterson, the founder of the event, Russell said he turned to the city for help pulling the event off at the request of Peterson's family.

"Without Randy, this could never have happened," Russell said, adding that Ketchum real estate agent John Sofro was instrumental in the event's coordination as well.

The city made its sponsorship official on April 26 with a special meeting that also waived a $450 special events application fee, allowed the festival to tap into Ketchum city power, covered the event under its liability insurance and amended the noise ordinance at the Simplot lot to allow music until 11:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Ketchum City Event Coordinator Sharon Arms said the city's expansion of liability insurance coverage to the event cost it roughly $1,000. The special events permit indicates that the city had roughly $3 million in coverage for facility damage and personal injuries.

Lisa Enourato, assistant to the city administrator, who was in charge of the insurance, said that so far, no claims have been made on that insurance from MASSV. According to City Council meeting minutes, similar coverage was extended to events such as opening ceremonies for the National Brotherhood of Skiers Meeting and Challenge Cup in February.

Arms said she saw MASSV as an opportunity for Ketchum to market itself to a younger demographic.

"I came here my first time when I was 19," she said. "I've been coming back ever since and eventually moved here. Those kids [who attended MASSV] came here and saw how awesome it was, and maybe they'll come back to ski or snowboard."

Arms said an event is considered for city sponsorship if it can be shown to have a positive economic impact on the city, appeal to a certain demographic and benefit businesses and hotels.

At first, she said she was not convinced the event met all of the criteria.

"I went into it skeptical," she said. "I thought the timing could have been looked at better. The town was already at a really high occupancy rate, but I was amazed at how well the event came off."

Russell said he had 2,000 people at the event, 75 percent of whom were from outside the Wood River Valley. The event was marketed extensively in Boise, he said, and received a cover story in the Boise Weekly on July 11.

But he said the impacts of the marketing go beyond bringing people to MASSV.

"Most people see [Sun Valley] as a place for wealthy older people," he said, citing Powder magazine's focus on the young skier and boarder scenes in Whistler and Jackson Hole. "But there is so much for young people here. [MASSV] shows a youthful side to the valley."

The crowd was youthful to the point that Russell felt comfortable bringing his 9-year-old son to the event, and writers of letters to the Idaho Mountain Express editor stated that they brought teens and pre-teens to the event without incident.

Russell said he went to several shows around the state and region to get ideas for MASSV, and learned what not to do from a few of them.

"I have been to some crazy shows," he said. "It's not what we wanted MASSV to be. If MASSV is going to be an out-of-control, injury-prone party, I don't want any part of it."

Arms said she considered the event to be family-friendly, with the possible exception of the after-parties held each night. However, she said, young kids were not likely to be at those events.

"It's 11 at night," she said. "You don't want your kids out then."

But some were not as convinced. Terry Basolo, executive director of the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition, said he did not attend the event, but was concerned about reports he'd heard—including from local radio news—regarding drug and alcohol use.

"My only concern is that if there is an event for young people, which we do need, that it be safe," he said. "I think the MASSV concerts are a great idea, but there is more that could be done to keep the events drug- and alcohol-free for minors."

County Medical Director Dr. Keith Sivertson stated in an email that he saw two drunk girls and a woman who came in with a possible overdose in the emergency room over the weekend.

Russell, who is also an emergency room doctor for St. Luke's Wood River, said one of the emergency room visits was from an 18-year-old volunteer who fell off of the willow hut installation at the Simplot lot while she was meant to be keeping others off of it. The girl was uninjured, he said, but was intoxicated at the time.

Russell admitted that there was likely some drug use at the concert.

"I smelled some marijuana, but I never saw any," he said. "To me, it seemed tamer than the Halloween party [on Main Street last October]. It seemed like a mellow crowd."

Russell pointed out that gross alcohol sales from his event totaled $13,000 for 2,000 people—which accounts for one drink per person every eight hours.

Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said his department responded to five MASSV-related calls on Saturday, one of which occurred when 20-year-old Austin B. Cruz of Hailey fell from the roof of a storefront on Main Street immediately south of the former Roosevelt Grill and onto Blaine County Sheriff's Sgt. Corey Weatherly.

Weatherly suffered a broken neck, while Cruz suffered bruises and broken facial bones. Weatherly was off-duty working private security for the festival.

Fellow security officer Mike Abaid said that while this incident was emotional for him, the event as a whole was not dangerous.

"We don't want [the organizers] to get a bad rap over this," Abaid said. "People were friendly and we didn't have any issues other than your generic calls and problems until the end."

The Ketchum Fire Department responded to nine total calls on Saturday night, which Elle said was above the department's average of roughly 2.5 per day. However, he said four of those calls were completely unrelated to the festival.

"Compared to any other big concert event, it's probably on par," he said, adding, "It was a great event—it was great to see all the people in town."

Though Russell said he considers the event a success, he's working on plans to make it even safer. He said he will spend more time finding reliable volunteers and is willing to work with Basolo and the Drug Coalition to limit underage drinking and child exposure to drugs and alcohol.

"We don't live in a perfect world," Basolo said. "But modeling of unhealthy behavior by adults does harm kids. It does encourage kids to make poor choices."

Kate Wutz:

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