More than 50,000 turn out for a soggy Rockfest

05/31/2014 10:01 PM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

Three downpours combined with 90-degree temperatures to turn Kansas City’s 22nd Rockfest into a bit of a mudfest on Saturday.

Fifteen bands played as more than 50,000 fans converged on Penn Valley Park around the Liberty Memorial to watch, listen and enjoy.

Most didn’t seem to mind the sporadic soakings, which turned grassy areas around the two stages into mud ponds.

Maybe it was the seduction of the thunderous, electronic rhythms. But as tradition would have it, the moshing in the pits in front of the stages, and the crowd surfing throughout, went on as expected.

It was a good time for most, but not all.

Alyssa Caperson, 17, of Leavenworth said this was her fourth year attending what has been billed as the largest outdoor, single-day music festival in the country.

This year, she and friend Ben Churchill, 18, of Leavenworth left the 10-hour festival early — four hours after the first band began playing at noon.

“I’ve never left this concert before it ended,” Caperson said. “But it was just a muddy mess in there. It’s nasty. People are slinging mud on everyone. There are people in there so covered in mud the only thing you can see are their eyeballs.”

Mud was splattered from head to toe on Tawney Reeves, 28, of Excelsior Springs and Ashley Kirk, 26, of Cameron, Mo.

It was no big deal, they said.

“It’s a lot of fun and its cheap,” said Reeves. The women each paid $30 for their tickets. “Usually the average concert is going to run you about $70 a ticket,” Reeves said.

AEG Live, entertainment presenters, has brought the concert to Liberty Memorial for 10 years. In addition to hearing the bands — 14 national and one local — concertgoers could visit a vendor village where beer flowed freely. And they could ride a zip line over the park.

March of Dimes Bikers For Babies collected donations just outside the park gates. Last year they raised nearly $20,000, but totals for this year weren’t announced Saturday.

Joe Litvag, executive producer of Rockfest and AEG’s senior vice president, said people started lining up at the gates by 7 a.m.

“Rockfest in Kansas City has become a rite of passage. We get the kids of people who came 20 years ago. It’s kind of a tradition in the rock world in Kansas City to kick off the summer.”

For the most part, “It has been a pretty well-behaved crowd,” Litvag said. “But when you have more than 50,000 people — well, there were a few alcohol-related incidents. But nothing unusual.”

Police reported only one arrest as of 9 p.m., for trespassing.

As for the muddy park, Litvag said if park officials say the grounds are ruined, as happened at the 2010 concert later dubbed “Mudfest,” then AEG will reseed the lawn.

“It may not be everyone’s cup of tea musically,” Litvag said, “but we try to put on an event that is fun, and leave the park in the condition we found it.”

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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