Panel rejects Bobby Bash

The Mesa County Planning Commission will not recommend approval of the proposal for Bobby’s Birthday Bash, a country music festival proposed for the same June weekend this year as the two-decade-old Country Jam.

After sifting through comments that lasted well into the night Thursday, a last-minute vote change by Pat Bittle tipped the outcome from the seven-member board, which will recommend that the Mesa County Commission deny the proposal. The County Commission will decide the Loma-based festival’s fate during its public meeting at 9 a.m. April 26.

Planning commissioners Christi Flynn, Bittle, Joe Moreng and Chip Page opposed the recommendation. Commissioners Phillip Jones, John Justman and Woody Watcher voted in favor. Alternate commissioner Wes Lowe was in favor of the recommendation, but his vote was not accepted because he was serving as an alternate.

The Planning Commission was most concerned about the applicant, Bobby Willis, proving he has financial bonding to ensure the event is executed and cleanup efforts are handled according to the plan. They also wanted to add a stipulation to deny a second proposed festival also slated for this year if the country music festival was not handled well. Those conditions were to be part of the recommendation if it was approved.

Bobby Willis proposed a festival to feature classical country stars June 23–26 near the Interstate 70 Loma exit. Willis said in his proposal he expects crowds of 20,000 people.

Willis did not attend the hearing Thursday because of a health problem, according to an attorney who represented him before the Planning Commission.

Some commissioners said they were concerned about the date for the event coinciding with Country Jam’s festival, which takes place several miles to the northwest, but they conceded that Willis’s event met many of the county’s requirements.

“I think this isn’t the best date for it, but if they meet the criteria for it, I think we have to approve it,” Watcher said.

Most of the approximately 40 audience members were residents of Loma, and many opposed the new fest for its impact to the area and safety concerns.

Commissioners twice asked Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey to comment about whether his department could handle the influx of visitors.

Bobby’s Birthday Bash has contracted with a private company for 56 officers who will also undergo training from the Sheriff’s Department. The department also could position a command center central to both locations, according to the proposal.

“I’m not willing to say we can’t do it,” Hilkey said. “I’m never completely comfortable with one event. If this is approved, we’re going to make our best effort to make it work. I’m not 100 percent sure it’s not going to be without challenges. I believe we are made to tackle big problems and make them manageable.”


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