OXFORD — Thousands of people from across the Northeast and beyond poured into the Nateva Festival at the Oxford County Fairgrounds on Thursday.

“If Phil Lesh can keep playing at 77, then I can make the ride to come see him,” said Jamie “Jambo” Myers of Struthers, Ohio. Lesh is actually 70 years old. Myers and his friend made the 13-hour drive mainly for the headliner Further, which features former Grateful Dead musicians. Myers, 38, said he’s been chasing shows, and now festivals, since he was 16.

Milling about in a field-turned-parking-lot waiting to be let into the grounds, festival-goers seemed to be taking even the two-hour-plus wait in stride — making new friends and sharing stories.

“It’s a big chunk of what I’m coming here for, anyway,” said Patrick Sweeney of Amesbury, Mass. “It’s not so bad waiting.”

Sweeney said Nateva was his first festival this season but he will likely attend others.

Arthur Fine, 20, of Burlington, Vt. , came to the festival with 20 people and a caravan of five cars. Fine said some in his party were from North Carolina.

He said the group has a couple of favorites playing over the next three days but was mostly in it for the overall experience. “Hey, it’s Nateva; it’s Maine,” Fine said.

At 7:15 p.m., six lanes of cars and trucks were slowly filtering into the fairgrounds, even as the first bands of the festival were taking the stage. License plates from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont and Maine were visible in the traffic jam.

Mike Porrello, 20, of Stony Creek, Conn ., said he and his friends came strictly for the music.

“Nateva is the premier festival for the East Coast, especially for, you know, Dead Heads or anybody who follows jam bands,” Porrello said.

Jim Britt, a spokesman for Nateva, said he had no estimate on how many people went through the gates Thursday night, but he called the process “seamless,” despite long waits for some.

“It’s the classic early-bird experience,” Britt said.

He said organizers were pleased with the large, early turnout of festival-goers and expected the volume of visitors to continue throughout the weekend.

He said the headliner band, Further, canceled a Vermont show on Saturday and many people planning to go to that show may now head to Oxford to see the former Grateful Dead members perform on Sunday.


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