ROME, N.Y. This humble town that fancies itself the Tableware Capital of the World is suddenly a major metropolis.
Thanks to Woodstock '99, which has brought more than 200,000 people to the decommissioned Griffiss Air Force base, Rome has temporarily become the third most populous in the state, behind New York City and Buffalo, organizers said in a press conference Saturday morning (July 24).
Like any large city, Woodstock has not been without its problems. But organizers said the problems have been few and minor.
So far, several hundred people have been treated for heat exhaustion, police have made numerous arrests on drunk-driving and drug charges and overzealous fans have broken portions of the boundary wall designed to keep out gatecrashers, organizers and security personnel said. And a 44-year-old man died of a heart attack in the festival campgrounds Friday night. Major James Parmley, on-site commander for the New York State Police, said the man had previous heart trouble.
Co-promoter John Scher beamed as he read off Saturday's lineup, which he compared to the top rock talent of 30 years ago, when the first Woodstock festival was held. He mentioned rockers Counting Crows, Alanis Morissette and the Dave Matthews Band and rapper Wyclef Jean first. Then Scher became bold, likening the trio of Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit and Metallica to the Who who were at the original Woodstock the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
"Don't be offended by that," Scher said. "It's the kids who make the difference."
At the same time, Scher acknowledged that organizers were dispatching extra security for Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine's back-to-back sets Saturday night because of the crowds the rowdy, metal bands sometime attract.
They're known for such songs as Limp Bizkit's "Nookie" (RealAudio excerpt) and Rage's "Bullet in the Head"
Immediately after Saturday afternoon's first set, by Canadian rockers the Tragically Hip, Scher went onstage to urge fans to drink water and not destroy the wall around the beer garden.
"It's gonna be hot. It's gonna be near 90 degrees today," Scher said. "There's plenty of free water. Try to keep cool. Try to keep your hats on if you have 'em."
And while 21-year-olds are free to drink, he said, if they break down the wall around the beer garden, the state liquor control board will close the garden down.
"Don't try to take down the fences," he said, emphasizing that they are not as strong as the big walls around the site.
The Woodstock crowd has behaved relatively well, according to Parmley. He said police made just six arrests overnight, four on alcohol-related charges, one on a drug charge and the other for shoplifting.
He shot down a rumor that a man with a metal glove attacked dancers in the rave tent, saying 25,000 people attended the rave without incident.
Unlike past Woodstocks, few, if any, fans have managed to sneak into the festival without $150 tickets, organizers said. And Scher said he plans to keep it that way.
"There won't be another Woodstock if this becomes a free event," he said. "There's only so many times Michael [Lang] can take a beating like that."
(Staff Writer Brian Hiatt contributed to this report.)