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BottleRock at the Napa Valley Expo

Napa Police and the California Highway Patrol have prepared plans for patrolling the Expo and surrounding downtown areas for the seventh annual BottleRock music festival, which runs from Friday to Sunday this weekend. Producers said attendance exceeded 40,000 on each of the three days of the 2018 event.

Keeping more than 100,000 music lovers safe during the BottleRock festival in downtown Napa is an intricate affair involving state troopers and city police – along with virtual fences.

For three days starting Friday, officers from Napa Police and the California Highway Patrol will team up to keep order at the Napa Valley Expo while top bands perform on four stages, and keep people moving on foot and in cars entering, leaving or simply passing by the music festival.

The demands of housing one of the county’s largest annual public gatherings is leading law enforcement agencies to step up their staffing to cope with the crowds, according to officials.

Napa Police officers patrol the Expo and surrounding streets in the Oxbow district between Soscol Avenue and the Silverado Trail, while highway patrol officers are responsible for enforcing traffic rules in the area, according to CHP Sgt. William (Brad) Bradshaw.

CHP will assign 20 officers to local streets during BottleRock’s afternoon sessions, with a dozen more going on duty at 6 p.m. before the main prime-time acts – Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons – take the stage, Bradshaw said.

The highway patrol’s special BottleRock staffing compares to typical holiday weekend enforcement of six officers for morning and afternoon shifts and eight in the evenings to cover Napa County and nearby portions of Sonoma County, according to Bradshaw.

Officers’ main task during the festival is to govern vehicle and pedestrian traffic on streets surrounding the Expo, the Third Street venue that has hosted BottleRock since its 2013 inception. All CHP personnel assigned to the Expo neighborhood this weekend will be working only that detail, with no other responsibilities, Bradshaw said.

Napa Police declined to release exact staffing levels for BottleRock weekend, but Lt. Brian Campagna said in a Friday email that “it is safe to say the majority of our officers, dispatchers and (community service officers) will be working in some capacity Memorial Day weekend.” While patrol staffing is expected to remain at normal levels, the department has assigned additional staff to boost downtown coverage, mainly bicycle patrol officers, he added.

The most common police-related calls on the BottleRock grounds have been for people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as for fights and disturbances, domestic disputes and traffic-related matters, according to Campagna.

Perhaps the highest-profile disturbance during the 2018 BottleRock was not related to any crime on festival grounds, but was the conclusion of a vehicle pursuit that began just outside city limits.

On May 26, two suspects in an armed robbery on Hagen Road led sheriff’s deputies on a chase that ended at the Expo, where they fled on foot before one man was arrested just after entering the fairground, according to Napa Police. The incident led police to temporarily secure the entrance, delaying spectators trying to enter the Expo for BottleRock’s second day.

For patrolling the BottleRock site and surrounding neighborhood, Napa Police will bill event producer Latitude 38 Entertainment $128,584 and CHP will charge $114,248. Latitude 38 also will pay the city another $37,771 to cover festival-related work by Napa’s fire and public works departments, as well as for the use of city-owned parking lots.

Among the policy changes this year at BottleRock are new restrictions on the size of bags visitors can bring onto the grounds. A new rule limits the size of personal bags to 14 inches square and no more than two pockets, and transparent material is encouraged though not mandatory. The restrictions are meant to make more bags machine-searchable and reduce the need for hand inspection by security workers, Latitude 38 principal Justin Dragoo said at a community forum earlier this month.

Traffic restrictions also will be more heavily enforced on Third Street, the busiest pedestrian route into and out of the fairground. In addition to blocking through traffic from 8 to 11 p.m. on each festival night, authorities will bar vehicle entry even to homeowners and their guests on Third, meaning that BottleRock fans paying to park outside private homes during evening concerts must wait for the street to reopen before leaving.

In addition to Third Street, Burnell, Juarez and other neighborhood streets will be off-limits to cars during BottleRock’s evening programs. Curbside parking bans around the Expo take effect at 8 a.m. Friday and will stay in force through 1 a.m. Monday, May 27, three hours after the festival’s conclusion.

As in 2018, online ride-sharing services serving festivalgoers will honor restrictions on passenger drop-offs and pickups just outside the Expo in a BottleRock policy meant to avoid traffic clogging, especially after evening concerts.

Apps for the Uber and Lyft systems will use geofencing to draw a virtual boundary around the fairground, preventing smartphone users from requesting rides from nearby streets. A section of downtown Third Street on the opposite side of the Napa River will be the designated car-sharing pickup zone.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.