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BoCC Focuses on Chaffee Resident’s Health and Safety

It’s official. During their 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, July 13 meeting the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) officially dismissed the application by Live Nation with its new nonprofit partner, Tenderfoot Transmitting (DBA KHEN Radio) to conduct the Seven Peaks Music Festival on the grounds of The Meadows in Buena Vista.

“Live Nation has said they are not presenting Seven Peaks this year –we learned that through social media, but KHEN has formally withdrawn the application as the nonprofit sponsor,” said Asst. County Attorney Daniel Tom.

Dierks Bentley has been one of several headliners for the Seven Peaks Music Festival.

The applicant was given the opportunity to speak and choose not to. The motion to dismiss was made by Commissioner Keith Baker, seconded by Commissioner Greg Felt and it passed unanimously.

The move was a bit anticlimactic. Live Nation had announced on its website last Friday that it was canceling the Seven Peaks Music Festival because the county’s board of health decided not to raise the county’s 5,000 person outdoor event cap.  That unanimous decision was made during the July 7 BoCC monthly Board of Health session to review the local public health order. The current COVID-19 public health order is in place until Aug. 31.

History has shown that 90 percent of Seven Peaks attendees are out-of-town visitors. The county leadership made the decision not to tempt fate by allowing an event four times larger than its current event cap to proceed.

Live Nation had angered some members of the Board of Health by promoting the event — selling more than 7,000 tickets — even before it had been presented to the Chaffee BoCC. It was perceived as pressure on the leadership of a small county to come out in favor of their 20,000 person event application. It appears to have had the opposite effect. Health data shows that not only is the COVID-19 pandemic not over, but dangerous variants like the Delta variant are spreading.

COVID-19 Delta variant. Image courtesy of WebMD

The decision demonstrated the authority and trust placed in Colorado’s local boards of health. Only last Friday, without warning, Governor Jared Polis abruptly rescinded the state public health emergency order. In making the announcement. Polis reiterated that this passed the public health order baton to local boards of health to monitor, so they could make decisions based on local conditions and concerns.

All three commissioners commented not just on their decision, but on the misconceptions that have apparently swirled around the Seven Peaks application, and opposition to any events held at The Meadows, which is in-county, adjacent to Buena Vista town property.  They reiterated that their three-zero vote to keep the country’s current event cap in place was a united vote by all three commissioners. One local news media (not Ark Valley Voice, (which reported their vote correctly) had reported inaccurately that their decision on the 5,000 event cap had not been unanimous, cause resentment and misunderstanding.

“I want to clarify … I often feel that the public does not necessarily understand or take into account the due process rules that we are required to operate under,” said BoCC Chair Greg Felt. “When an entity makes an application for a land-use action or for something like a special event, we’re not allowed to respond. We are bound by the due process rules of the state, including properly-noticed meetings, and the sunshine laws … Despite what people have alleged in several mediums, this is a very honest, credible hardworking, and caring group of county commissioners trying their best to reconcile the array of information over a diverse set of circumstances.”

“It is challenging to be subjected to a lot of input, people filling in the blanks when there is a lack of info of what is going through our minds,” added Felt. “… People all of a sudden thinking we’ve become idiots overnight … It’s frustrating to see [accusing] statements and allegations propagated when because of due process we can’t respond.”

Felt pointed out that in prior years, the Live Nation application was heard and decided upon in March. But this year, Live Nation made the decision to wait until July 6 for their first hearing; a critically short timeframe between submission and the proposed Labor Day weekend event. That decision said Felt has created more uncertainty and pressure. “Announcing the lineup and selling tickets without having a complete application submitted, was a calculated risk on their part – I feel it was a strategy to frame this situation up in such a way that it was that much harder to be intentional and keep our priorities the way they need to be.”

“I hope to hell our situation improves between now and Labor Day – at this point, I don’t see metrics pointing in that direction. I don’t see evidence that things are drastically improving,” added Felt. “What I DO see is decisions being made throughout Colorado that I believe are not supported by the data … based on wishful thinking and based on hope, but in my opinion not based on epidemiology. Other county commissioners and the governor can make decisions for their areas, other music festivals, the All-star game, they can make those decisions and answer for the consequences.”

In his opinion Felt added, the decision made on July 7 was the right one for the county. “It had to do with 16 months of careful watching these [COVID] metrics, adapting our strategies to try to create the safest community situation possible, so our community was safe – so it would thrive and make sure our schools would open in the fall, then and now…. those were my priorities … we’ll never know if we overreacted, but you’re damn sure we’d know when we under-reacted.”

Commissioner Baker reinforced Felt’s comments saying that a renowned admiral facing a typhoon with an entire fleet at risk once said “the time to take precautions is when you are still able to do so… we aren’t at sea, we are in a deadly pandemic. It isn’t over. This isn’t the post COVID era, it’s not the post-pandemic era – every morning the news is not getting any better.”

“General Douglas MacArthur said the history of failure in war can be summed up in two words: too late…. our country and the world was too late in addressing this pandemic problem and we have paid the consequences,” added Baker. “If we don’t treat it seriously, it’s going to be bouncing along for who knows how long. In my opinion, we’ve got to try to get this thing behind us. But as long as we treat it cavalierly, we won’t.”

“I back up the information we’ve heard late on Friday from the Governor [about the state public health order] It’s been frustrating,” said Commissioner Rusty Granzella, who reiterated that his initial support of a bigger crowd size for Seven Peaks was based on his “regard for those who have been vaccinated.  Dr. Fauci continues to say that vaccination is the key and I want to push that.”

The commissioners stress that regardless of resident’s positions about COVID-19, or country music festivals, or the future of The Meadows, that given the context of this year, they understood how difficult it has been for entertainment organizations such as Live Nation to figure out how to proceed, with such a tremendous amount of uncertainty — that COVID added a new layer of concern over everything else.

Felt encouraged Chaffee residents to work together, instead of making every issue a matter of divisiveness. “Remember what brought you here in the first place and what made you stay – for all of the challenges, and they just keep coming — we are not going to fare well if we keep framing this that way.”

All files related to this application are available here: