OXFORD — Missing, one Ferris wheel.
“Last I heard we were chasing the guy around Kentucky,” said Nateva Festival President Frank Chandler just 24 hours before the gates were set to open for the three-day music festival at Oxford Fairgrounds.
The missing Ferris wheel, which was expected to arrive on the grounds before the gates open Thursday afternoon, was just one of scores of details Chandler and his crew were taking care of from the administrative offices on Coldwater Brook Road and on the 100-acre fairgrounds on Pottle Road on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s such a transformation,” said Chandler, a resident of Newton, Mass., as he drove around the fairgrounds in a golf cart showing media the activity and preparation for the multi-stage event that is expected to draw up to 15,000 people. Tickets have been sold to people in every state and in Japan and England. Among the acts are Furthur, Jakob Dylan, Moe and the Flaming Lips.
“Why would you want to sweat at a festival in West Virginia in July when you can come to Maine?” Chandler asked as he drove through the midway that now houses a vendor called the Solar Cafe and other vendors selling world vegetarian cuisine, hummus and ice cream.
Chandler has said the event is expected draw thousands of “older hippies” and sure enough, the tie-dye T-shirts, peasant skirts, long dreadlocks and beards were very evident around the fairgrounds.
“A whole nation of hippies showed up,” said Chandler as he drove the golf cart saying hello to everyone from lone security people on the fringe of the fairgrounds, which is now surrounded by 4 1/2 miles of fencing, to a state fire marshal and construction crews.
“Are you good?” he called out to a pair on a golf cart.
“We’re better than good,” responded one. “Can you see the rainbows?”
Chandler saw the fairgrounds during The Big Oxford Fair last fall. He knows the 170-year-old tradition of the Oxford County Agricultural Society and the agricultural culture of Oxford Hills. It has been his intention since day one to have a first-class concert and camping experience that is family-friendly, environmentally friendly and good for the surrounding communities. And he hopes this is the first of yearly concerts that will draw music lovers from around the world to the Oxford Hills.
He has also sought to include as many local people as possible. Local contractors have been hired and area organizations and businesses such as the Oxford Hills 4-H clubs and the Jackson Sugar House are showing on the fairgrounds during the event.
The barns, which each September showcase the area’s agriculture and history, now house everything from the media center to what was described as a “psychedelic hunting lodge” in the Youth and 4-H livestock barn. Now temporarily known as “Thunder Lodge,” construction crews were hard at work Wednesday transforming the barn into a lounge complete with tree limb fishing poles, a large stone fireplace, a wood stove that changes scenes in the fire pit from day to night by turning a large handle, a place to “kick back and relax,” Chandler said.
Walking through the 4-H show barn, an indoor stage was under construction where concertgoers can watch music in a more intimate setting until 3 in the morning. With the large barn doors that can be opened, “it gives you a sense of being indoors and outdoors,” Chandler explained.
The racetrack, the center of attraction for the concert-goers, has become the site of the main stages, a beer garden, more vendors and an interesting central circle with torch lighting where people can hang out and listen to the music. It is surrounded by campsites on fields with names like Moose Field.
Behind the central stage area and the site of the expected Ferris wheel, concertgoers will see the 20-foot-plus high Nateva letters on top of a hill. The last letter was just being put up as Chandler drove by.
“I’m really, really pleased with it. It becomes something you think about,” said Chandler, who said he hopes to store the letters, derived from his children’s names, Nate and Eva, in one of the Oxford Fairgrounds barns for future use.
As he ends the tour, Chandler makes one last stop to show the media the mass casualty van that is on site in case of a natural disaster, or, Chandler said laughing, “for a swarm of hippies.”