“…we all know if we were named “Good Ole Country Riot Fest,” we would have never been in this situation.” – Michael “Riot Mike” Petryshyn
Some of the dust has settled – and that pun is definitely intended – in the Riot Fest vs. Arapahoe County and Byers drama, with Riot Fest organizers settling on holding this year’s 3-day event at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. That’s today’s big announcement, straight from Riot Fest and Denver promoter of the festival, Soda Jerk Presents:
“Riot Fest is happy to announce that after visiting many great venues over the course of the past week that Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be the official home for Riot Fest & Sideshow, Sept, 19-21, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.
Although dozens of venues were interested in hosting the event, organizers chose the stadium for several factors, one of which being that stadium management have allowed Riot Fest to recreate Byers, Colorado and May Farms on the new fest grounds. Riot Fest made many friends in the Byers community, and it truly saddens organizers to be forced to move the fest away from its inaugural home – but if the farm is unavailable, they’ll bring the farm to Denver. Moreover, as previously promised, free parking will be made available to the festival’s patrons, and Mile High’s location will allow for public transportation options through the RTD. All tickets will be honored at the new location and refunds for those who purchased camping spots will be processed starting today.”
The good news is that all of our tickets will be honored, of course, and all the bands scheduled to play at May Farms are still scheduled to play, and (so far) in the same lineup. The bad news is that the camaraderie and festival culture that can only be found in the associated campgrounds will be absent – or at least reduced to a day-by-day thing.
Of course, the organizers are putting their best face on it, but it’s painfully obvious that the new location brings what was growing into a potentially fantastic – and lucrative – yearly festival that might one day have reached the level of famous festivals like Coachella, Sasquatch, Bumbershoot and more down to the level of just another Warped Tour (no offense, young punks, but I think we can agree on this). This isn’t the fault of the promoters, the Riot Fest organizers, the bands or anyone else that loves the show – this is the fault of a few narrow-minded people out in the Colorado plains that feel that a little more traffic in their struggling town is more of a threat than the economic and community benefits that having the festival at May Farms would have brought – along with that traffic.
“… the way this is unfolding … Colorado ends up looking like a backwater, close-minded state, scared of diversity.”
Michael Petryshyn released an official statement saying as much (you can read the entire statement below), and stirring the pot (as it should be) with the Arapahoe County officials that made the decision to deny the festival’s permits, and plans to still file a formal appeal to the board.
“…it has to be stated with deafening clarity that we wanted to make Byers, Colorado our home for Riot Fest for years to come,” said Petryshyn, in his statement released today. “Elementary ideological forces and manipulation veiled in contradictory legal jargon prevented us from coming back to May Farms this year. Simply, we were duped. Certain groups, residents and so forth did not want YOU or US in their town, and there is something morally dishonest and unforgivable with their actions,” he added. “I cannot fathom that in 2014 certain social mores grounded in revulsion and irrationality, of course, by a limited howling few, can inflict such harm in a town or in a county. It’s disgusting and these people should feel ashamed.”
The drama, it seems, will continue, and that’s a good thing – we need the discussion, and the clarification. One of the most upsetting parts of the way this is unfolding is the fact that, once again, Colorado ends up looking like a backwater, close-minded state, scared of diversity – just like we did in 1992 when voters approved Amendment 2 (now overturned, thankfully). Sadly, the ideology of a few inconvenienced residents trumps any benefit the festival may have brought to the town – such as increased business, taxes, etc. And those residents should be ashamed.
The Riot Fest organization is also offering Byers residents a pretty sweet deal. From the press release:
- Any Byers resident who wants to come to Riot Fest this year will receive complimentary tickets as well as free daily shuttle service to and from May Farms and Sports Authority Field. Details will be announced next week on how residents can sign-up for this.
- Riot Fest will also allow several Byers businesses and other I-70 Corridor businesses who supported them free vending space at no cost.
- Riot Fest has also announced a $5,000 scholarship to be awarded to one graduating senior who plans on majoring in music, arts, business or marketing. Riot Fest has now asked other partners, industry friends and other Colorado businesses to contribute in hopes of getting that scholarship up to $20,000.
At the end of the day, Colorado gets its festival, and so do the 17,000 or so fans – at least for now. The future is uncertain for returning festivals – and could also be for other events that might raise the ire of the local yokels. It seems damned short-sighted, and a sad state of affairs, honestly.
Michael Petryshyn’s full statement (with some additional advice from Crass):
Statement Regarding Riot Fest & Sideshow in Denver, Colorado
Before I begin what will probably be a long-winded concerto of a statement, it has to be stated with deafening clarity that we wanted to make Byers, Colorado our home for Riot Fest for years to come. It’s a community we care about tremendously, just like Humboldt Park, in Chicago and just to pack up and watch the town disappear in our rear window is not an option.
In just over a year, we became part of the May Family and Gary, Stacie and their children became part of ours… the relationship is beyond normal kinship. And, I wish I wasn’t hunting for words in describing the bond between our two families — a perfectly succinct account for the fans. But, it’s hard enough writing about the Mays and the deeper I dig to find words, the harder it becomes to explain. There’s no defense mechanism for this one to hide or bury inside a wrinkle… I’m just tremendously sad.
At the same time, I am utterly incensed. Elementary ideological forces and manipulation veiled in contradictory legal jargon prevented us from coming back to May Farms this year. Simply, we were duped. Certain groups, residents and so forth did not want YOU or US in their town, and there is something morally dishonest and unforgiveable with their actions. Sean and I, along with our partners at Soda Jerk Presents, have been mum throughout this entire ordeal, but that will stop today. We have officially filed an appeal with Arapahoe County as of this morning and, needless to say, we are doing this because we are in the right. I cannot fathom that in 2014 certain social mores grounded in revulsion and irrationality, of course, by a limited howling few, can inflict such harm in a town or in a county. It’s disgusting and these people should feel ashamed. I will refrain from commenting any more on these matters, but, with complete conviction and certitude, more will come to light and all fans will know what precisely transpired.
To continue, we were essentially tossed out of Byers and after visiting several sites during our week here, we decided on Mile High. After much thought about the pros and cons about moving to the stadium versus other venues, the fact that the stadium is willing to allow us to transform their grounds and recreate Byers and May Farms swayed our decision.There are hundreds of agricultural towns across the U.S. who are struggling for survival, dismissed by their neighbors and political representatives at a state and federal level. There is no glossing this over… Byers is not an economically robust town. In parts, it’s certainly poor. And would Riot Fest be the end-all-be-all to save this town economically? Of course not. This takes multiple businesses and forward thinkers to take this kind of risk. We were up for that risk, because it’s evident we’d sell more tickets in Denver proper. But that’s not what Riot Fest is…. And it never will be. People thought we were crazy for choosing Humboldt Park in Chicago, but we knew we were right. Fast-forward three-years later, Humboldt is fast becoming its own economic engine … and we are proud to be a part of that rehabilitation. The thing is that we never wanted to change ideological mindsets in Byers – that’s not our job and no side will ever win. However, we whole-heartedly believed that we could have been a preamble for growth, and, in turn, help the town be heard for real and legitimate concerns: infrastructure.
Now, to the Riot fan base. I’m sorry for all of this and I thank you for standing alongside us. Sean and I, along with our partners at Soda Jerk Presents,will be forever grateful to all of you. And even after the curtain closes this year, I know I will look back on these last few weeks and smile because our Riot fans stood alongside us. The biggest apology to the fans goes to the people who were planning on or purchased camping. Obviously, camping refunds will be processed today, but, I know that isn’t enough and neither is an apology. You guys, above everyone, bought into Riot Fest and the experience we were providing in Colorado. I will find a way to make this up to you in the next few weeks. I promise.
With all of that said, I’d like to thank the residents and businesses of Byers, Strasburg and the surrounding areas. Your letters of support have not been overlooked. More importantly, I’d like to apologize to the youth of Byers. I know many of you are disappointed and outright angry, but please do not shun or mistreat anyone for the decision that was made. Community is based on divergent opinions and backgrounds and knowing that will guide you through any irrationality that may come your way in the future. When I was a teenager, music and lyrics guided me and helped me discover the world outside of Blasdell, New York. So, I will leave you with the following lyrics that helped me become the person I am today:
Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do
I am he and she is she but you’re the only you
No one else has got your eyes, can see the things you see
It’s up to you to change your life and my life’s up to me
The problems that you suffer from are problems that you make
The sh** we have to climb through is the sh** we choose to take
If you don’t like the life you live, change it now it’s yours
Nothing has effects if you don’t recognize the cause
If the program is not the one you want, get up, turn off the set
It’s only you that can decide what life you’re gonna get
The fact of the matter is that even in this day and age, ignorance resides and the words “Riot Fest” unfoundedly scares people. Punk rock still scares people. Intelligence and wit scares people. And we all know if we were named Good Ole Country Riot Fest, we would have never been in this situation.
Your grateful chum,