Touring music festival, with Mumford and Sons, draws praise and concerns in Salida

Photo: SteamPlant Event Center in Salida
The SteamPlant Event Center in Salida, Colo., is one venue that will host events and concerts during the 2015 Gentlemen of the Road music festival, Aug. 21-22.

A traveling indie rock music festival announced its plans to bring a slew of major acts to Salida, population 5,409, for the first time this August. Organizers expect as many as 35,000 people to attend the event, which is scheduled to take place in the small mountain town on Aug. 21 - 22.

The Salida dates represent the first time that Boulder-based Madison House has produced the series in its home state. And the lineup for the three-year-old "Gentleman of the Road Tour" includes big acts like Mumford and Sons, the Flaming Lips, and Jenny Lewis.

"It’s going to be a huge economic boost for not only our community but communities around Salida as well," said City of Salida event coordinator Beatrice Price. "There is no comparison. This is going to be the biggest event that our county has seen."

The festival will take place on a 190-acre, city-owned plot of land known as Vandaveer Ranch, with camping and a stage located on the south side and day parking on the north side.

"Granted, we’re a small community and this is a huge event, but Madison House Presents has done this before and they know what needs to be done," Price said. "We’re working closely with them to make sure we dot all of our 'I’s' and cross all our 'T’s."

Price says Madison House will pay Salida for use of the land and other city services. The company has also agreed to re-seed and repair any damage done to the Vandaveer Ranch property during the course of the festival.

But some community members have concerns about the summer festival. Almost 200 residents have signed an online petition in an attempt to stop the event from coming to Salida.

Salida city council member Hal Brown says he thinks more time is needed to assess the potential impact.

"The fire hazard, the environmental impact, the public health and safety, the traffic -- there are a number of concerns I have that haven’t been addressed to my personal satisfaction," Brown said.

"We’re in a mountain valley on a river, and the closest interstate and the closest city with a major population -- Pueblo -- are more than 90 miles away. If an emergency happened, how in the world would we handle it?"

At a public meeting in November, Madison House co-founder Mike Luba told Salida residents that tour organizers, "philosophically didn’t want to go to Winter Park, we don’t want Breckenridge, we don't want Vail."

"For all the folks who get to come to town, they’ll get a real, authentic Colorado experience without having to look at thousands of condos and giant ski lifts," he explained.

The event organizers have yet to secure the necessary permit from the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners to realize their plans. They will present their final plan to the city of Salida in May.