PUT-IN-BAY — Shawn McCown exited from the back of a Toledo Tent Party Rentals truck trailer mid-afternoon Wednesday. He had been installing party tents since noon in preparation of Put-in-Bay’s first-ever Bash On The Bay country music festival.
“It’s non-stop,” the field manager said, whose company was one of more than 20 others installing equipment from stage lights to fencing barriers. “I know it’s going to be pretty busy down here.”
Bash On The Bay country music festival is expected to draw more than 12,000 people to South Bass Island throughout the day to watch the Toby Keith headlining event on Thursday.
But how does an island, which has no more than 500 year-round residents, prepare for such an event?
The equipment transportation started on Monday morning, whether it was a food truck traveling by a ferry or one of Keith’s tour buses or semis that boarded the boat. Together that included more than 20 semis, 10 buses, 15 food trucks, and 15 auxiliary boats all transported to the island before the “Red Solo Cup” country star walks up to the microphone Thursday night.
The hard work was seen all day Wednesday, which included crew workers and volunteers installing the 40-ton stage to firing up the generators to power the food trucks.
Golf Carts could be seen racing from end to end of the Put-In-Bay Township Authority airport Wednesday afternoon from company employees to volunteers, which carried chairs, food, and tools. That’s not to mention the countless tractors and semis moving even more equipment like A.T.M. machines and many portable restrooms.
Michael DiTosto, owner of DiTosto Productions, spent most of the day installing the stage, lights, and sounding board.
His day also started at noon, whose team of 15 wouldn’t call it a day until 10 p.m.
A small break during Thursday’s festival will allow his team to be rejuvenated to pull an all-nighter to tear down the stage and lights immediately after Keith’s last song.
The airport will need to be cleaned and ready to go for re-opening at noon on Friday.
A truck with Toby Keith's tour waits to board the Miller Ferry Wednesday on its way to Put-in-Bay.
“It ain’t a much harder day than what we usually do,” he said. “It’s a normal work day for us.”
Others like Garry Savage, owner of Heavy G’s restaurant out of Huron, started his day as early as Sunday preparing supplies and by 7 a.m. on Wednesday was on his way to the island.
His crew of five family members pulled a wagon out of the truck filled with more than five gas cans for fuel to power the generator. They’ll spend the night with friends on Middle Bass Island to avoid the hassle from sold out hotel rooms before heading back to South Bass Island for the day Thursday morning.
“It’s like camping for food trucks,” he said. “We’ll stay as long as people are hungry and as long as we have food.”
While the festival has more than 475 volunteers working the event, there will be 200 security guards and law enforcement officers making things run smoothly.
Tim Niese, CEO of festival organizer Concerts On A Part-Time Status and island business owner, said the security guards and officers from throughout the state will give assistance for the festival, including from Ottawa, Erie, and as far away as Jackson County, as well as the security force that runs the Cleveland Browns stadium and the Marblehead post of the U.S. Coast Guard patrolling the water.
“You have to have it totally put together to make this [country music festival] go,” he said. “We know we’re going to fill this island up and we’re just telling everyone to be prepared.”
Even Miller Boat Lines and Jet Express will offer ferry rides to and from the island to the mainland throughout the day Thursday and into the late night hours until each concert-goer is off the island.
Kevin Durbin, one of the 475 volunteers hired for the country music festival and long-time friend of Mr. Niese, spent his day moving tents, light towers, and generators for safety measures.
“You want nothing but the best,” he said. “People are going to have a good time. It’s a unique situation and I’m hoping [organizers] pull it off.”
Trucks, campers, semis, and other vehicles sat in lines as far back as Water Street from the Miller Boat Line dock as early as noon on Wednesday.
While 12,000 tickets were available for the festival, and Mr. Niese is expecting it to sell out, about 7,000 people are also expected to reside in an island hotel for the evening.
Shaun McCown gathers up rope as he works with his crew from Toledo Tent Party Rentals to set up the VIP tent Wednesday at the Put-in-Bay Airport. More than 12,000 people are expected to journey to the island Thursday to see Toby Keith perform at the Bash on the Bay.
That means about 5,000 will need to rely on a ferry to get back to the mainland.
Mr. Niese said with the overtime help from Miller Boat Lines and Jet Express, the combined assistance will allow for 2,900 people to be transported from the island back to the mainland in an hour.
“It took a great deal to make this happen,” Mr. Niese said. “This is a one-shot deal.”
Year-round Put-in-Bay resident Jeanette Parker Luecke, 75, who lives half of a mile from the airport, said she isn’t too worried about the large amount of people expected on the island for Bash On The Bay.
“I’ve heard lots of negative people talking and I just say, ‘I'm optimistic about it,’” she said. “I think they have all their ducks in a row and that’s about all you can do.”
Bash On The Bay also includes special guests LOCASH, Waterloo Revival, Cory Farley Band, and Brent Lowry And The Drifters. Gates open at 3 p.m. Thursday and the first band is scheduled to perform at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at www.etix.com.
For more information, visit www.bashonthebay.com.
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