The Mumford effect: Thousands converge on Dixon for concert
|The crowd, that was at capacity, cheers and celebrates the band Mumford and Sons. (Alex T. Paschalfirstname.lastname@example.org)|
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DIXON – It was no ordinary crowd for Dixon.
The town's population more than doubled over the weekend for a band many residents had never heard of until just a few months ago – Mumford & Sons, a British folk rock group.
Concert organizers sold about 15,000 tickets. About 5,000 more people showed up for downtown festivities. Most were in their 20s and 30s.
Denise Nietupski, 54, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was the very first person in line Saturday outside Page Park, the concert venue. She arrived at 6 a.m.
She was standing with Barb Johnson, 46, of Minneapolis, and Erin Daly, 21, of Rockford. They met on an online Mumford forum.
They wanted to get near the front of the main stage.
"We've met people from all over," Johnson said.
Jordan Maahs, 18, came from even farther. She said her father drove her from their Toronto, Canada, suburb, 9 hours away. It was a graduation present.
"I haven't been to the United States much," she said. "I've been to New York and Hawaii. I like the downtown here. It's small."
Some businesses cash in
A "no concert parking" sign was posted at the entrance of the Walmart parking lot over the weekend. Otherwise, the national chain welcomed Mumford & Sons fans.
The store even prepared. It brought in extra help from other stores.
Late Saturday morning, the store had at least 15 checkout lanes open.
In the front, two employees stocked bags of ice in the freezer. The ice was selling quickly, they said.
Meanwhile, Mumford fans visited the liquor department. A couple of men bought a case of Busch beer.
"It's cheaper than it is in Chicago," one said.
Not all businesses benefitted from the Mumford masses. At 12:30 p.m., KFC on North Galena had a grand total of two customers in the dining room. The restaurant had more employees working than usual because of the concert, but some said it may have been too far off the beaten path.
On Hennepin Avenue, the Reagan Home drew in more visitors than usual – most of them younger. A guide showed a couple of 20-somethings around the house, talking about Ronald Reagan's prowess as a lifeguard, among other things.
Emily Wiley, 22, was with fellow alumni from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.
"If we went to Dixon and didn't learn about Ronald Reagan, we would not be good tourists," Wiley said.
The supply and demand of parking
Parking came at a premium. The going rate in the blocks near downtown was $20 or $25.
Dixon's Worship Center had spaces for $20 each at its church and behind Paul Whitcombe's law office.
"Our price is not based on the market," the Rev. Michael Cole said. "We are simply providing a service for our guests."
Nearby Sauk Valley Properties on Palmyra Street advertised $25 per space. And Gracie Grove of Dixon held a sign on Galena Avenue for $20 spots at a vacant lot. The proceeds went to The Next Picture Show, a Dixon nonprofit fine arts center.
By evening, cars filled the lots.
'They told us not to walk'
Traffic was steady throughout the day on Galena Avenue and Palmyra Street – busier than usual, but flowing well.
That may be surprising because of the increase in population. But then again, thousands camped at places such as Reynoldswood Christian Camp and Reagan Middle School, traveling to downtown on school buses that were in service day and night.
About 10 a.m., more than 100 people were in line at Page Park. Gates opened at 1 p.m.
In that crowd were Jordan Lulloff and Chris Sinta, both 19-year-old Lansing, Mich., residents. They came by bus from Reynoldswood.
"They told us not to walk. Some people did," Lulloff said.
'Turns out it's a concert'
Page Park quickly filled up within the first 30 minutes of the gates opening.
Many scrambled to get coveted spots at the front of the stage, while others chose to sit under large, shaded trees.
Before the music began, some tossed around Frisbees and twirled Hula Hoops. A huge line quickly formed at the Mumford & Sons merchandise table, which sold T-shirts, blankets and other memorabilia.
Taking a look around the park Saturday, it was clear the dress code was "anything goes."
Many people donned black top hats and fake mustaches from the Gentlemen of the Road Tour logo.
Some girls dressed in long peasant skirts with crowns of flowers on their heads, while several men wore tuxedo T-shirts.
Ryan Zschiesche, 27, of Rock Falls, dressed in a white-and-black-striped baseball Halloween costume with a matching cap and gray Chuck Taylor shoes.
"I thought there was a game here – turns out it's a concert," he joked.
Zschiesche said the music festival was "like the Petunia Festival times 100."
"It's a home run," he said.
Mike Strubin, 23, of Chicago, came up with a way to be able to find his friends in the crowd.
Strubin attached a colorful puppet from the show, "The Big Comfy Couch," to a stick and held it high over his head as he walked around the park.
"I have three sisters, so I stole this from one of them," he said with a laugh.
Did it work? Not really, he said.
Terry Keenan, 45, of Geneva, bought a purplish top hat for the concert at a store in downtown Dixon.
Keenan said he enjoyed the warm hospitality he had received, as well as the continuous live music at the park.
"This is a fantastic – what a great venue," he said.
Not everyone was familiar with Mumford & Sons or the other bands. Ronnie and Matt Duffy, 49 and 47 respectively, of St. Louis, came for the party.
"Everyone has been very respectful," said Ronnie Duffy. "The whole experience is so cool."
Matt Duffy is from Dixon. The festival gave him a good excuse to come home and make a weekend out of it with his buddies, he said.
Duffy, a 1983 graduate of Dixon High School, said he especially liked seeing the Mumford & Sons flags adorning the high school during the concert.
In fact, an image of the high school was incorporated into the Dixon Stopover logo.
"It stirs up a sense of pride," he said.
'There's enough music for everyone'
Even with the concert, life in Dixon went on as usual. In fact, one of the town's bigger events, the annual Gardenstock at Distinctive Gardens, still took place. Bands played, with spectators listening under the shade of trees. They brought their own beer and chairs.
The Mumford effect?
It was hard to tell around 1 p.m., but organizers said attendance was steady.
"There's enough music for everyone," said Bud LeFevre, who headed the event, proceeds from which helped Sinnissippi Centers' gardening program.
LeFevre announced a tie-dye contest. He joined in the spirit, wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and shoes.
He said some confusion resulted from having both Mumford and Gardenstock on the same weekend. Some Mumford security staff showed up at the Distinctive Gardens event, expecting to work there.
"We told them, 'You're at the wrong place. Go downtown,'" LeFevre said.
On food, 'too many choices'
At Page Park, security wasn't too tight. But guards checked bags and purses. People could bring in sealed, nonalcoholic beverages. Unsealed beverages were barred.
No one could bring in food, either, causing occasional grumbles. Guards kept the food and beverages, to be discarded later.
Short on money? The concert organizers had that taken care of, setting up ATM stations. But they struggled to get the ones near the high school to work. The others operated fine.
About 50 people stood in line for the working ATMs. One wondered if they knew about the $4.95 "courtesy" fee to use them.
Twenty-five food booths lined the river, including 15 from Dixon and one from Sterling, each with a wooden facade and the band's logo. They included Pizza Hut, Oliver's Market and Fung Ming.
"Too many choices," one concert-goer said.
The concert also had 18 alcohol booths, selling beer and mixed drinks.
'I'll follow the sex on the doors'
Near the food section was a U-shaped formation of 106 portable bathrooms – on the right for women, on the left for men.
"I'll follow the sex on the doors," one woman said, referring to the portable toilets' gender designations.
On the west side of the park were 42 more portables.
Near the bathrooms were wash stations – another place to meet people.
"Where are you from?" a 20-something woman asked a man.
'One of best crowds we've played to'
Thousands gathered by the Main Stage before Mumford's performance, scheduled to start at 8:50 p.m. The band was right on time.
The smell of marijuana wafted from parts of the crowd – not unusual for an outdoor concert.
"If you're planning on sleeping, you're setting yourself up for disappointment," singer Marcus Mumford told the crowd.
He later told the audience that "you're one of the best crowds we've played to." He thanked Dixon.
"Sorry about the mess," he said.
And it did get messy – trash cans overflowing, the park dotted with bottles, cans, cups, to-go boxes.
When the concert ended, the mass of people slowly walked toward the park's exit. With nearly every step came a crunching sound – from a layer of litter.
As the crowd left Dixon High School, some went north to catch buses to their campgrounds. The rest crossed the Peoria Avenue bridge to enjoy bands and other entertainment downtown.
'Absolutely. It was terrific'
Reynoldswood Christian Camp had about 4,000 people.
"They said they'd get us an exact number, but they haven't," Sheriff John Varga said.
He was one of five members of the Sheriff's Department on duty at the camp.
On Friday night, some campers stayed up all night. They never quieted down, Varga said.
About 12:30 a.m. Sunday, campers seemed relatively quiet. But the sheriff said things could worsen once bars closed at 2 a.m.
Camp rules bar alcohol, but Varga said he and deputies saw plenty of campers hauling in cases of beer.
He said he could only enforce state law, which allows those 21 and older to consume alcohol. So the camp was left to enforce its own rules.
Sunday morning, concert organizers cleaned up Page Park, keeping the public out.
"Still locked down," a guard told a reporter.
In downtown, a handful of volunteers picked up litter. Reed Nelson, 67, said it really wasn't that bad.
Asked whether Dixon should do it again, he said, "Absolutely. It was terrific."
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