Fest Mess

Popular Central Texas music festival faces backlash from new neighbors

Popular Central Texas music festival faces backlash from new neighbors

2017 UTOPiAfest
UTOPiAfest will find out if the permit is approved on October 9. Photo courtesy of UTOPiAfest

KVUE — A music festival's move from a small town northwest of San Antonio to a ranch in the Hill Country has some people who live nearby concerned.

"A lot of people are seeing this as a retirement area. It's quiet," Burnet resident Russell Weakley told KVUE.

About eight years ago, he moved to Burnet from Atlanta to escape the city life. It's that same selling point that attracted the organizers of the annual UTOPiAfest to a privately owned ranch behind Weakley's home. The ranch is near CR 200 and Hidden Ranch Boulevard.

This year's four-day festival, "Down in the Oaks," promises a "magical, extraordinary experience" of music and fun surrounded by oaks and fields. It's scheduled to run from November 1-4.

Weakley said he and his neighbors found out about the festival's new location sometime in June. "Why would you want to do something like that and have to travel down that easement, dirt road," he said.

And it's that same road getting into the festival that has Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd concerned. He said the road is in poor condition. "[The festival organizers] are working on fixing that road, but there's only one way in and one way out of the festival," Boyd said. "Right now, it won't work."

Weakley, however, is more worried about County Road 200, the road outside his home, and the 1,600 or so cars organizers said they expect will drive on it.

"That is not actually a two-lane road. It's smaller," he said. "In the morning and the evenings, during school time, drop-off and pick-up, [CR 200 and FM 1174] are backed out. Cars are down the road. That's a mess."

Sheriff Boyd is taking all of this into consideration. "If they meet all the requirements, we'll issue a permit," he said. "If they don't, then we won't issue a permit."

Festival organizers sent a letter to residents near CR 200 to help ease some of the concerns. (Read the letter here.)

Festival organizers are expecting at least 4,000 attendees. The mass-gathering permit, according to the Texas Health and Safety code, would grant them permission to have more than 2,500 people on the property for more than five hours at a time.

Sheriff Boyd will ultimately decide whether to approve or decline the permit application on or before October 9. If the permit is declined, the festival could still go on if organizers plan for a smaller crowd.

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To read the full story and see the video, head to KVUE.