After months of anticipation, a historic night for the Napa Valley unfurled at the Napa Valley Expo Wednesday — the first night of the BottleRock music festival.
Promoted as the largest event in the city of Napa’s history, the first night of the festival drew thousands of concert-goers to the expo’s grounds to witness musical performances by Family of the Year and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Throngs of people crowded toward the event’s Citi Stage when Macklemore came on shortly before 8:30 p.m., and he summed up the spirit of the crowd by saying, “This is our night — I feel alive, BottleRock!”
The saxophone track and rap lyrics to Macklemore’s hit song, “Thrift Shop,” reverberated over the Napa River and into downtown as the dusk turned into darkness.
Still to come, of course, is four more days of the festival, which will undoubtedly test the capacity of a city of less than 80,000 people to accommodate crowds expected to be up to 35,000 people each day.
But on Wednesday night, several Napa residents expressed excitement and optimism about the festival’s potential to draw a new and younger crowd to a city accustomed to tourists looking for fine wines and fine dining.
“I was actually surprised,” said 17-year-old Napa resident Maia Rios. “I was surprised it was going to come to Napa. Something is going to happen in Napa? People are going to come here for a reason other than wine? I’m excited to see it.”
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the crowd at the expo was in their late teens or 20s, some wearing bright, neon-colored outfits, knee-high fur boots, and others sporting tie-dyed shirts with the words “Same Love,” which is the title of Macklemore’s same-sex marriage anthem.
Junior Villa, an 18-year-old Napa resident, said he was skeptical of a festival this large even happening in a town like Napa at first, but was pleased to see so many people turn out for it Wednesday night.
“At first, I didn’t think they were going to be able to pull it off,” Villa said. “It’s such a small town. It’s not like a big city like San Francisco. It’s just great to see all these people from all over.”
Vandy Pai, a 20-year-old student at UC Berkeley, said Wednesday night marked her first visit to Napa. Having recently attended the annual Coachella music festival in Southern California, Pai said no one would mistake that for BottleRock. But, she said BottleRock enticed her to come, especially to hear Macklemore.
“It’s the first time I’ve been to Napa,” Pai said. “It’s definitely a different scene.”
Napa resident Jason Luros, 36, said he is involved in the Napa Valley Film Festival, and appreciates the difficult work it takes to get an event off the ground in its first year.
“It seems like they’re getting a lot of turnout,” Luros said Wednesday night. “People were down on it for awhile, but it looks like they’ll pull it together. We’ve been trying to do these big community-wide events. This is going to be good for Napa.”