Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Here’s how first responders handled the inaugural Williamsburg Live

Norah Jones plays at Williamsburg Live. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Virginia Arts Festival Facebook)
Norah Jones plays at Williamsburg Live. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Virginia Arts Festival Facebook)

Last weekend, Williamsburg Live came to Colonial Williamsburg, bringing jazz and bluegrass music to the Historic Area. 

With such a large event in town, first responders and police came out in force to ensure the crowd stayed safe both nights.

So, on the heels of two Funhouse Fest concert series, what’s the verdict from police and fire crews on the success of the inaugural Williamsburg Live? 

Both Williamsburg Police and Williamsburg Fire spokesmen said the concert series was fairly uneventful from a public safety standpoint. 

“The weather was gorgeous, the crowds were mellow both nights,” said Master Police Officer Charles Ericsson, adding nobody was “acting a fool.” 

Having Bruce Hornsby’s Funhouse Fest as Williamsburg Live’s predecessor also helped first responders know what to expect, Ericsson said.

“We really have over the last couple years really have fine tuned our approach,” said Deputy Fire Chief Larry Snyder.

Fire-rescue personnel only received three calls for service Friday — most of which were falls and did not require transport to a hospital — and had no calls Saturday, Snyder said.

“Ironically, we were expecting to be a little bit busier,” Snyder said, adding that nicer weather will bring out more people and typically result in more emergency calls.

Police dealt with an intoxicated person Friday night, but that call was handled without incident, Ericsson said. Otherwise, “we didn’t have any major problems.”

Williamsburg Police had seven officers including Ericsson on scene each day. Fire-rescue had seven people onsite and one at the command center.

While the weekend was quiet, first responders prepared for the worst. 

Williamsburg Fire and police collaborated with RMC events staff, Virginia Arts Festival staff and Colonial Williamsburg’s private security force to work through a unified command post. The offsite command center allowed all involved agencies to work together for logistical and public safety purposes.

“RMC event staff, they really handle almost everything,” Ericsson said. “We’re really there as a backup to them.”

Police had a plan for handling situations where some attendees drank too much, although that proved to be less of an issue this year.

The fire department also borrowed a mass casualty bus from Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg, which was new this year and had not been available at previous Funhouse Fests. The bus, which includes an abundance of medical equipment and room for more than 20 patients, is available through a partnership between Riverside, Eastern Virginia Health Coalition, the health department and the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Medical Response System. 

Snyder said they made some improvements around the venue’s medical tent. At Funhouse Fest, some attendees set up their chairs a bit too close to the medical tent, which threatened both access to the tent and the confidentiality of patients inside the tent.

Snyder said this year, the venue put up fencing around the medical tent to allow for more privacy.

Details about the number of tickets sold and general festival success are not yet available from organizers.

Virginia Arts Festival spokeswoman Alli Pereira said the organization has a “reporting process” it follows with its co-presenters and partners, and cannot share additional details with the media until that process is complete.

“That said, we can report that the event was a tremendous success, thanks to the efforts of all our partners, the phenomenal artists who performed, and some truly beautiful weather,” Pereira wrote in an email.

Pereira wrote more information may be available to the media in a “couple weeks.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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