Special Events

WOODSTOCK '99 MUSIC FEST ENDS ON A SOUR NOTE WITH LOOTING

Woodstock '99, a four-day outdoor music festival held in July in Rome, N.Y., was not all about spreading good vibes for Lexington, Ky.-based Lundy's Special Events, which together with New York-based Ogden Entertainment sold concessions to the 250,000 concert attendees. A mob of gatecrashers attacked Lundy's concession stands, tents and vans on the last night of the concert, causing damage estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Special Events Magazine interviewed Lundy's owner Jerry Lundergan.

What was the mood before the riots? The event had gone so smoothly-with 250,000 people, I did not observe even a fight.

How many people were on your staff? We had 230 managers from Lundy's staff and about 4,000 temporary employees.

How did the riots start? Around 9:30 Sunday evening, when the event was about over and people were leaving, about 200 to 300 people broke into the concert by tearing down a section of the wall. There were small bonfires around the premises, and these "unexpected visitors" took my tables and threw them in the bonfires, making big fires. They tore down our tents and used them as trampolines. They ransacked our 12 tractor-trailers that had food in them.

One of the bonfires must have gotten too close to a truck and ignited the Freon in the refrigeration units. When one caught on fire, the adjoining trucks did, too.

Reports indicated that high food prices had something to do with the riots.

The police are now saying that the riot was an orchestrated disturbance organized over the Internet. As for the concessions, the promoters set all the prices ... 1/2-pound hamburgers were $5, 12-inch pizzas sold for $12 ... those are normal prices at an airport, for instance, especially in New York City. The $4 waters got a lot of attention [in the media] for being expensive, but they were big, 24-ounce bottles ...

What did you do when the riots started?

Once we saw things getting out of hand, our managers got our staff out of the concession stands. We moved them to our compound, a fenced-in area in the rear of the concert. We also turned off the propane tanks and electricity. Then the rioters looted our concession stands until the New York State police showed up-the security on-site was not enough to deal with the situation. All in all, the riots lasted almost two hours.

What's the damage?

We're still assessing the damages, but I think they'll exceed half a million dollars. We assume Woodstock's insurance will cover this.

Would you do this again?

I would definitely consider it. You learn from your mistakes. Promoters will know better now and will be more prepared for [a similar incident]. In addition to security officers without weapons, state or local police would also have to be involved. You have to have real security, and I would request that always in my future contracts. -T. M.

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