LITCHFIELD — Six months ago, a representative of a concert promoter approached town officials with a proposal to use a hay farm in town as the site of a four-day music event in August 2020.

At that time, the promoter said the event could draw 10,000 to 15,000 people with campers and recreational vehicles, and would require security, sanitary facilities, a water supply and fire protection.

While the state of Maine has a permit process for large gatherings spelled out in state law and administered by the state Department of Health and Human Services, Litchfield has no ordinances of its own to regulate such an event.

The town, at its option, can impose its own set of requirements on such gatherings.

“Just like every other town in the state, we’re trying to protect ourselves from liability, mostly,” said Gary Parker, chairman of the Board of Selectmen and a member of the Mass Gathering Ordinance Committee. “It’s not that we’re opposed to a mass gathering, because I definitely am not. I think it’s a great benefit to the town and the state.

“That being said, you also have to take into consideration that Litchfield is a small town and an entity has expressed interest in having a fairly large gathering, almost like a fair,” he added, “but over a period of time.”

For the last several weeks and probably for the next few, the Mass Gathering Ordinance Committee has been meeting on Tuesday nights in the Litchfield Town Office to draft a proposed ordinance that outlines what town officials expect to happen in the event that a mass gathering takes place in the southern Kennebec County town.

The town’s interest is making sure its concerns are covered and that traffic continue to flow for the duration of the event, he said.

Committee members have identified provisions of mass gathering ordinances from other municipalities and are tailoring them to suit Litchfield’s needs. Those provision include the application and approval processes, what sort of information applicants would be required to submit and the appeal process. It also outlines how the provisions of the town permit would be enforced, how parking would be handled and what public safety and public health measures the town would require to be in place.

“If this is going to continue, and we’re going to have this ability to make this income for the town, we ought to have some kind of protection in writing,” Parker said. “We’re hoping to get it done before spring.”

The committee is expected to take its proposed ordinance to the Board of Selectmen for review and the board can present it to the town.

The next committee meeting is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

The farm in question is owned by Mel and Barbara Newendyke. On Wednesday, Mel Newendyke said he had no idea what kind of music festival is being contemplated.

“The gentleman that had approached us had been looking for a location for the company he was representing,” he said. “After looking at Google Maps, he saw that we have a lot of big, open fields, which is what they were looking for.”

Town records show the Newendykes own about 170 acres on Small Road.

“We were not the only property owners under consideration,” Newendyke said. “There were others, also. He did come and look at our property personally, a couple of times. He seemed rather interested in it.”

Following an initial meeting with town officials and an appearance at a Planning Board meeting, town officials decided a mass gathering ordinance would be needed and started looking at what other communities had put together.

Litchfield has experience with mass gatherings. Every September for the last 161 years, the Litchfield Farmers’ Club has put on the Litchfield Fair. These days, the fair can attract anywhere from 12,000 to 17,000 people to the fairgrounds on Plains Road over the fair’s three-day span.

Like other town residents, Richard Brown, first vice president of the fair’s board of directors, has heard about the size and scope of the festival.

“I don’t think it’s going to be another Woodstock,” Brown said.

Part of the success of having a large-scale event like a multi-day concert, depends on controlling access to the site, he said, and the Newendyke farm is not fenced.

“It could be done, but it would be one hell of an expense and a lot of hassle,” Brown said.

A music festival could bring a economic boost to Litchfield from visitors spending money on gasoline, food, snacks, water, drinks, cigarettes and anything else they might need during the music festival.

Several years ago, he said, an economic impact study done on the Fryeburg Fair showed its economic impact on the area was about $20 million.

“It’s kind of mind boggling,” Brown said, “but that’s over a seven-day period.”

It’s not clear not clear now what economic impact the music festival might have on Litchfield. Since that Planning Board meeting, Newendyke said, he’s had practically no communication with that person.

Newendyke said he’d been working with Live Nation, a concert promoter and ticket seller. The representative who met with town officials was from C3 Productions. A call to C3 Productions in Austin was not immediately returned Wednesday.

“I don’t know what’s changed,” he said. ” I tried to contact him a couple of times, and he’s basically said no decision has been made. So I think we’re probably out of the running. We can’t seem to get a definitive answer. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on that possibility.”


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