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No attendance limit on Talkeetna festival after all

Posted: Tuesday, August 05, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) There will be no attendance limits at this week's Talkeetna Bluegrass and Music Festival after all.

Last week, organizers were planning to allow only 1,000 people because of a Matanuska-Susitna Borough requirement for a $125,000 bond to cover possible cleanup costs. The festival usually draws about 4,000 people.

Festival president Ernie Wheatley had offered the 140-acre site on which he runs the festival as collateral for the bond, but borough officials had rejected his proposal because of concerns about being able to sell the land if it came to that. However, borough officials issued the permit to Wheatley on Monday after he appealed to Borough Manager John Duffy.

Wheatley said he was ecstatic about the decision.

''I just want everyone in the state to know that I've got a valid permit for 4,000 people or more,'' he said.

Billed as ''Alaska's greatest campout,'' the multiday festival begins Thursday. It is said to be the state's largest outdoor music festival. A $30 fee covers parking, camping and music for all four days.

Wheatley said he would have lost money if he had limited attendance, though he acknowledged he might have balked at turning people away.

At issue was a borough ordinance that requires a permit for any event outside city limits involving more than 500 people who pay to get in.

Duffy said he reconsidered Wheatley's permit after the festival president promised to bring in a real estate broker's appraisal estimating the value of the property at $100,000 or more. He also said he was swayed because the festival has had a good track record in recent years in limiting problems and keeping the property clean.

Wheatley said he complied with the ordinance this year but considers it unfair and will work to get it changed. Duffy said he might consider making exceptions to the bond requirements for events that have good track records.



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