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March 3, 2012
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Growing crowd kicks off SnowBall

AVON, Colorado - People seem a bit better prepared for the weather at this year's SnowBall Music Festival, but others seem to have left their brains at the door.

Friday afternoon, Gramatik's internal-organ-rearranging bass was pumping out of the Groove Tent, and Flashlights' cool electronic pop shimmered in the Ballroom. The air was kind of shimmering, too - air at 18 degrees, and kicked around by an almost-stiff breeze, will do that.

Last year's inaugural festival brought any number of stories about people wearing way too little for the conditions. Jake Ottmann of Fort Collins said this year's festival seemed different.

"People look like they're better prepared this year," Ottmann said, adding that the only real breach of cold-weather protocol he'd seen was a woman with a jacket, a skirt and leggings.

Eagle River Youth Coalition Director Michelle Hartel said the people she'd seen so far seemed to be better prepared than they were last year, although the group's booth was doing brisk business in sales of stocking caps, gloves and hand-warmers. The free condom bowl had already been refilled several times, too.

Ottmann said he returned to this year's festival for the crowd, and, of course, the music.

Whitney Holtan, of Steamboat Springs, said she'd come back for the music, too. And, since she works all summer in order to take winters off to ski, Holtan said SnowBall was her chance to come to a big outdoor music festival.

"It's close to home and all my friends are here," she said. "It's a lot of fun."

A loudly asked question - "Who are you looking forward to seeing?" - brought any number of shouted responses from the bundled-up clot of people around Holtan and Ottmann:

"Marty Party!"

"Bassnectar!"

"Big Boi!"

There weren't many people stumbling around Friday, either, although it was still early. But the festival bars were busy, and there were plenty of people walking about with cold beers in gloved hands. It was also easy to find the smell of marijuana. As Gramatik thumped away in the Groove Tent, it was hard to tell where smoke from machines began and where the fog from the wacky weed ended.

And, while one of the festival's posted safety rules urges people to "keep you substances to yourself," undercover police officers had made several drug arrests before 5 p.m. Marijuana had been seized, as had numerous doses of ecstasy and several bags of psychedelic mushrooms.

Avon Police Chief Bob Ticer said there are more than 20 uniformed officers from around the region working the festival site. There are also "more than a handful" of undercover officers working the festival - all of whom are young and fit right in with the rest of the crowd. State liquor authorities have also sent plainclothes officers to the festival, and a couple brought in a young woman - handcuffed - during a quick tour of the operation.

The Avon Police Department had been turned into a quick-turnaround center for some. The Eagle County Sheriff's Office had set up a system in order for some of those arrested to post "personal recognizance bonds" so they could appear in court later. The person with the mushrooms ended up in jail in Eagle.

But, at least so far, there hadn't been any violence or disturbances, and uniformed officers were happy to answer questions, or at least point people in the right direction for food, water or warmer clothes.

Gabriela Pastore of Parker seemed well-buffered against the cold. She said this is her first SnowBall, and was looking forward to "great music and a great crowd."

Michelle Schlund works for the town's public works department and was on hand with other town employees to help people if needed and take care of anything that went wrong at the site. Schlund works in frosty weather all the time, and was bemused by the scene around her.

"When you're working out in this all day, you forget what it's like to get out and play in it," she said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 3, 2012 05:05PM Published Mar 3, 2012 05:05PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.