An aerial view of Ashley Pond Park during Friday’s Big Head Todd and the Monsters concert. Photo Courtesy Los Alamos County
Despite the larger than normal attendance Friday night, there was plenty of room for everyone at Ashley Pond Park. Photo Courtesy Los Alamos County
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Although no official number was available late Monday morning on the attendance for the Big Head Todd and the Monsters concert at Ashley Pond Park Friday night, Los Alamos County Community Services Division Manager Brian Brogan told the Los Alamos Reporter the closest he could come up with was in the 3,000 to 6,000 range.
Brogan said planning for the event started nine months ago when the scope for the request for proposals for the concert was changed.
“We wanted to use our concert series as a mechanism to attract tourists and also be something for the residents, which is our mission – to hold family-friendly events,” he said. He said the CSD was looking for some bigger acts so six months later there’s change and there are bigger numbers which created another set of fears particularly for the town’s public safety people.
“Everyone had their concerns and my job is to listen to all the concerns. If the event was to be planned properly, my job was to be the middle ground, understand the concerns and mitigate them as best as possible to ultimately make sure the event would go and go safely while calming both the people who were fearful and the people who were excited,” Brogan said.
For Brogan, it was just another concert just more acclaimed than ones in previous years and the crowds were anticipated to be larger.
“Other than that it was just another concert. As with any event that I’m in charge of, the hope is that with proper planning we can mitigate all the foreseeable fears and provide a good event,” he said.
Brogan has been in municipal government for more than 20 years and said he has run several concert series and large events in Washington and Oregon with easily 5,000 to 10000 and often up to 20,00 in attendance. During the five years before he came to Los Alamos, he worked for a Fortune 500 company in Arizona running large, fully-catered events for the entire company often with budgets of $300,000 or more.
“Having contingency plans and having everyone on board to voice their concerns and then mitigating all of those is key. You encourage the naysayers to come and hopefully you can change their opinion. I think we took a lot of fear out of people showing that this can be done and we probably can have bigger bands and be successful. If we get the community on our side as one of the stakeholders, that’s even better,” he said.
Brogan said drone footage showed only a third of Ashley Pond Park was full. He said at that density people could be all around the Pond for concerts and if necessary Central Avenue can be closed to through traffic.
He said CSD had a debriefing earlier Monday morning with all the County departments involved in the event and the promoter. He said most of the issues they discussed were pretty minor. He mentioned that some bathrooms were under-utilized and some were over-utilized.
“So just moving some things around and ding some things differently will help with the process next time,” Brogan said.
He noted that Environmental Services reported that 50 percent of waste generated at the event was diverted. He said vendor lines were long and that two of the vendors sold out completely not just at their booths but at their businesses nearby.
“The best thing for me was all the people that were excited. I think there were a lot of nonbelievers in the beginning that didn’t believe this could actually happen in Los Alamos dating back to six to nine months ago. Now a lot of them have come up and told stories of gratitude,” he said. “It was great to bring the big city to the little city.”
Brogan said he was particularly happy to see Russ Gordon honored at the concert.
“This is just growing a concert series that ultimately Russ Gordon 29 years ago started so he’s hugely important. He’s the one that started it all,” he said.
Brogan said he walked some 10 miles through the crowd and had observed that people were placed a little tighter but that he still saw picnic tables and picnic blankets just like all the other years but just less space between them.
“The density was little tighter. People were just a little farther from the stage and a little closer to their neighbors,” he said. He noted that the new contract has a condition for the presenter to provide 360 degrees sound for any concert that where it is necessary numbers-wise. He said adding a second screen is also an option.
“We were expecting 5,000 people so we were in the ballpark and we were ready for that. If it had been 15,000, we were ready for that too. As we got closer to the date of the concert we followed the media and there are lots of subtle clues that you get. We discussed this about a week before the event and we came up with and estimate of about 5,000 and that’s what we thought it would be”, Brogan said.
He concluded by saying there are a few process improvements that can be made more for contingency than reality.
“You can never prepare for everything there’s always something,” he said.