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Rothbury Producer Confirms 2009 Festival

Of the Oakland Press

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ROTHBURY, Mich. -- The show will go on in Rothbury next year, and for many more if organizers of the Rothbury Festival have their way.

Festival producer Jeremy Stein of Madison House Presents confirmed on Saturday (July 5) that Rothbury, a four-day event that kicked off Thursday (July 3), will return to the Double JJ Ranch in 2009, mostly likely again on the Independence Day Weekend.

"We're very happy with the way things are going; it's exceeding our expectations," Stein said. "This is a long-term concept. This is the first year to try it, and then we'll go from there.

"I have no doubt there will be more Rothburys."

With sunny and warm days after crippling storms the day before the festival started (July 2), Rothbury is earning overwhelming praise from patrons and participants alike. David Murphy of the band STS9 pronounced Rothbury "the most cutting-edge festival in America," primarily because of its self-sustaining environmental initiatives and educational programs.

Stein, meanwhile, noted that "there's been no real failures" in the festival's operations or infrastructure. The biggest hit, he said, has been Sherwood Forest, an elaborately decorated area where the festival attendees -- estimated by Michigan State Police at almost 32,000 on Friday -- relax on hammocks and in orange, pumpkin-shaped pods while hired entertainers frolic through the area playing games with them.

The producer said the early evaluations have focused on directing foot traffic around the 200-acre festival site and also staging issues, positioning for the most optimal viewing and eliminating sound bleeds between them.

Rothbury's organizers were also pleased that they've been able to effectively minimize Rothbury's environmental footprint. Sarah Haynes of the Spitfire Agency, who's serving as Rothbury's Greening Director, said Saturday that the festival is running at 80 percent waste diversion -- collection and recycling -- and improving daily. Rothbury is using 520 volunteers to assist festival goers in sorting their trash into separate bins for recycling, compost and landfills.

Haynes said Rothbury also made use of 500,000 cups made of corn as well as plates made of sugarcane -- which she noted are actually cheaper than paper or plastic -- and cutlery made from wheat. Some 60,000 recycled trash bags are being used on the site, as well as biodiesel fuel from Michigan-based Next Diesel. On Tuesday (July 8), 12 trucks will haul out leftover tents, furniture and other items for a "free garage sale" that will benefit the Red Cross, Goodwill and other charities, and Grand Rapids-based Spurt Industries, which will compost Rothbury's waste, plans to distribute Rothbury soil.

Rothbury has also been holding seminars and panel discussions featuring performers and scholars addressing topics ranging from recycling strategies to the most environmental friendly products.

Festival producer Stein said the measures made Rothbury more expensive to produce than other festivals but added "everything costs a little more to do the right thing."

Peter Shapiro, founder of the annual Earth Day Green Apple Festival, said that "the exciting thing is a model is being created" for environmentally sustainable music festivals. "As much as we can create a market, cost structures will come down" and more festivals will be able to follow suit."

The measures are certainly making an impact on those attending Rothbury. "I've never seen people at a festival pay this much attention to the environment," said Mike Siegrist, 24, of Canton, who bought at solar powered cellular telephone recharger in the Rothbury marketplace. "It's cool to be at something like this."

Stein said that he was pleased with the festival attendance, which was estimated at 31,000 on Saturday. "If you have no precedent, you're in great shape to see tens of thousands (of people) the first year," he said.

Michigan State Police Lt. David Roseter said that as of Saturday afternoon there were about a dozen arrests so far, mostly for drug dealing or "alcohol-induced" disorderly conduct. "We're very pleased with the way it's going," he noted. "For a crowd of 30,000, a dozen or 13 (arrests) is not too bad."

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