Wakarusa Festival rolls out welcome mat

Clinton Lake State Park was being transformed Wednesday from a sleepy camping area into a concert venue that will house and host thousands of music lovers for the next four days, starting tonight.

Cesar DuBois, of Lawrence, sets up a welcome sign Wednesday for the Wakarusa Music Festival at Clinton Lake. Thousands of music fans are expected to attend this weekend's event, which will feature about 90 bands.

“It’s a very, very busy place,” said Brett Mosiman, organizer of the Wakarusa Music Festival. “We’re setting up all the stages, trying to make it look pretty. We’ve got over 20 semi-truck generators there – we’re building a small city.”

As many as 15,000 fans, most of them from out of state, are expected to attend the festival, which will feature 90 bands on six stages.

“It’s going to be a totally epic event,” Mosiman said.

And local store merchants hope it adds to their bottom lines.

“There are lots of folks coming in, and they’re coming in from all over the country,” said Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bureau will provide a shuttle bus between the camping area at Clinton Lake and downtown during the weekend.

“Most of the people are camping, because that’s what it is,” she said. “What they typically do is by lots of grocery, lots of beer, lots of other drinks.”

Some of what concertgoers need will be provided on-site. Mosiman said the festival was putting 1,500 people to work – including about 600 musicians, more than 200 stage personnel, nearly 150 security officers and vendors of all stripes.

“We believe the economic impact of it is going to be extremely large,” he said. “Instead of a normal concert or a basketball game where people are around for three or four hours, people will be here for three or four days.”

An event this large can’t take place without some help from local governments. The festival is paying the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department and the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical the cost of the extra personnel they’ll bring in to staff the event.

“”It’s a team effort, and we’re part of the team,” said City Manager Mike Wildgen.

“With the agreements in place, we’re trying to make sure it’s not a financial burden on either of the public bodies,” added County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

Maj. Rich Barr, of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, said health problems shouldn’t be too much of a concern.

“It could be a big event – given the weather forecast, it’s going to be pretty nice,” he said. “If the humidity went up or the temperature went higher, that would concern us a great deal.”

Mosiman said he expects a successful weekend.

“Good weather and fun times,” he said. “I think the most amazing thing is that people are coming to Kansas for vacation from all 50 states. There’s a reason for that.”