LIMESTONE (AP) – Thousands of Phish fans departed Monday as a massive cleanup got under way following the jam band’s two-day festival that drew 75,000 people to the former Loring Air Force Base.

There were bottlenecks of three miles in Mars Hill and five miles between Littleton and Houlton as vehicles streamed southward hours after the music ended at midnight and fans began packing up.

Troopers were worried about fatigued drivers since many Phish fans hadn’t slept much during the weekend festival.

Troopers reported dozens of accidents. The most serious was a rollover on I-95 north of Medway in which three Phish fans escaped serious injury, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Public Safety Department.

The driver, Michael Schutzer, 18, of East Hartford, Conn., fell asleep at the wheel and the sport utility vehicle he was driving overturned twice before coming to a rest upright in the median, McCausland said.

During the previous two Phish festivals in 1997 and 1998, there were six fatalities involving motorists who had attended the festival. Most of the accidents were due to driver fatigue, McCausland said.

The radio station set up at the concert site encouraged fans to get plenty of sleep so they could be well-rested for the drive home.

State troopers were on the lookout for tired drivers along I-95, the most common route for motorists leaving the state.

The festival, dubbed “It,” surpassed the attendance of the two previous festivals, “The Great Went” in 1997 and “Lemonwheel” in 1998. The state police crowd estimate was 75,000, compared to 60,000 for the earlier shows.

There were some logistical problems but the crowd was easygoing. There were only 35 arrests, most of which were drug-related.

“It was a well-behaved crowd. Thirty-five arrests are minor compared to 75,000 guests for the weekend,” McCausland said. “Our biggest challenge is to get them home in one piece.”

In Limestone, the cleanup crew was just getting started as the Phish fans were packing their tents, loading their vehicles and beginning their southward exodus from the former B-52 bomber base near the Canadian border.

Officials had to remove 1,100 portable toilets and an estimated 300 to 400 tons of trash left behind by the fans who had camped on the twin runways.

Enlisted for the cleanup was Anna Borofsky and her crew of more than 70 workers from the company Clean Vibes, an environmentally friendly concert-cleanup firm from Portsmouth, N.H.

It took two weeks to complete the last cleanup in 1998 but officials hoped to complete this one in one week.

In the end, it may take longer because the weather was not cooperating, Adam Lewis, spokesman for Great Northeast Productions, which put on the rock band’s two-day festival.

Lewis declined to speculate on whether there would be another festival next year in Limestone. “Let’s finish this one up first” before we talk about another one, he said.



On the Net:

www.phish.com

AP-ES-08-04-03 1655EDT



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