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Ark Valley Voice has confirmed that KHEN Radio, 106.9 FM,  also known as Tenderfoot Transmitting, the low-power, non-profit radio station based in Salida, has been approached and has accepted a role as the nonprofit associated with the proposed Seven Peaks Music Festival. The festival is proposed for The Meadows 277-acre venue on Chaffee County land on the edge of Buena Vista, where it was held in 2018 and 2019.

A big meadow with bigger views, The Meadows is the proposed site of the Seven Peaks Music Festival. Greg Wright photo

“KHEN is excited to partner with Live Nation as the nonprofit partner in bringing the Seven Peaks Music Festival to Chaffee County,” said KHEN Board Co-Chair Trish Cullinan. “With their contribution to our station, this partnership will help us fund the hire of a new executive director.”

During the June 30 public hearing on the application for a 2021 Seven Peaks Music Festival, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) discovered there was a total lack of an association with a nonprofit entity that would exempt the festival’s organizers from decibel-level caps. Proposed by the Nashville music promoter Live Nation for the 2021 Labor Day weekend; the application is being made months later than prior applications.

The 2020 concert, which had been approved by the BoCC in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, was canceled. The submitted application asked for a crowd cap of 20,000.

In the previous two Live Nation concerts held in Chaffee County (2018, and 2019) the concert application had been made in the name of a West Coast nonprofit. This time, the application submitted by Live Nation’s Seven Peaks Site Manager Jim Reid contained no reference to a nonprofit.

“KHEN’s Board of Directors, has made a decision to be the nonprofit entity for this event ‘Seven Peaks Festival’ Buena Vista, Colorado. It is our hope that this will be the avenue to more listeners in our Arkansas Valley and beyond,” said KHEN Board Co-chair Richard White. “We hope that this relationship will help with our growth as a Community Radio Station and resource for our local population.”

Per state statute, in the absence of a nonprofit association, the music event must adhere to state noise levels of 50-55 dB. A loophole in the statute allows an entity to exceed those sound limits if the application is made in association with a nonprofit. The previous two Live Nation events have exceeded those state noise limits, tracked at 80-85 dB.

The BoCC gave the concert organizers until the close of business on July 6 to resolve the issue with their application and resubmit it. It set a 9:00 a.m. July 14 special meeting to review the revised application.

KHEN 106.9 West Third Street location in Salida (Photo by Taylor Sumners)

Live Nation approached KHEN late last week with an offer. KHEN radio is a 501(c)(3), with an eclectic roster of programming and a loyal following, much of it in the southern half of the county. It has no formal newsroom functions.

The concert application has been the source of community disagreement centered in Buena Vista. There is a large and organized resistance to the event led by neighbors of The Meadows, squaring off with an enthusiastic group of supporters.  The resistance, based on concerns about traffic, noise, and other crowd-related issues, is not new, having begun nearly as soon as the first Live Nation concert in 2018.

This year, an overriding health concern is woven into the conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and the much more dangerous Delta variant of the virus is quickly becoming the dominant strain in the country and in Colorado. It now accounts for one in every four diagnosed cases. Recent surges in Mesa and Alamosa Counties have overwhelming health facilities there.

Those testing positive are overwhelmingly unvaccinated individuals. Chaffee County stands at 62.2 percent of eligible adults vaccinated, and children ages 11 and younger cannot yet get vaccinated.

The county currently has a 5,000 person cap on any county events. The Board of Health agreed to regularly review their parameters around the county’s health conditions. It has scheduled a July 7 special meeting to review the situation and may or may not adjust the event cap.

The Live Nation representative drew the ire of the BoCC in their June 22 session, when they admitted that they had already sold 6,000 tickets to an event that had yet to be reviewed, let alone approved. Sources confirm that they have continued to sell tickets, with 7,000 reportedly now sold.

Ark Valley Voice’s own community survey, while hardly scientific, revealed that 35 percent of respondents were opposed to allowing any large events this year, clicking on: “Nothin’ doin’ — Any events in the county this year should be mostly locals.” Coming in second at 22 percent was to “allow events up to 10,000, maybe with vaccinations required maybe without, depending upon what Public Health says.”

Editor’s note: Ark Valley Voice Managing Editor Jan Wondra is a member of the board of directors of KHEN RAdio station. She voted “no” on the board vote on whether KHEN should accept the invitation to associate with the controversial event.