Bluegrass festival’s fate dependent on bonding
Three days before the start of his planned bluegrass festival, organizer Justin Falleaf is attempting to satisfy the terms of a Leavenworth County temporary use permit he needs for the event.
Falleaf has organized the festival for three straight years at the site in southwest Leavenworth County, about 2 miles east of the Douglas County line on Kansas Highway 32. But as he was made aware of the need of permits when he helped the owner of the festival site clean up the property in the last year, it occurred to him he might need a permit for the festival.
That was indeed true, and Falleaf on Monday asked Leavenworth County commissioners for a temporary use permit for the festival Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which he hopes will attract 35 bands and 200 to 300 people a day.
In making his pitch, Falleaf said the event would not be a rock festival with rowdy fans but a laid-back affair. Most of those attending would be friends or family of the performers.
One of the bands, Truckstop Honeymoon, from Lawrence, was a “baby-making machine” whose members wrote children’s books, Falleaf said.
No alcohol would be sold at the site, Falleaf said. He had 1,000 tickets printed but said he doubted he would sell them all.
“That's alright. We don't want to be a Wakarusa or a Rockfest,” Falleaf said.
A bluegrass performer himself, he wanted to give others in the area and state a venue to showcase their talents, Falleaf said. Money from the event would be used to help launch his band booking website, bandorbar.com, and renovate two houses on the festival site property, he said.
Most of the bands will play bluegrass, but there will be some alternative-country, blues and jazz bands who compliment the atmosphere, Falleaf said. Among the Lawrence and area bands scheduled to play are Dead Man's Flats, Sunflower Colonels, Split Lip Rayfield and Old Country Death, Falleaf said. Regional or national acts include Mountain Sprouts from Eureka Springs, Ark., and The Ben Miller Band from Joplin, Mo.
Leavenworth County Commissioners were open to issuing the permit, but cautious.
“We want these kinds of things in the county,” Commissioner J.C. Tollefson said. “But you kind of sound like four guys putting on a festival.”
The county planning staff recommended safety fencing and a $1 million event liability policy be conditions of the permit — steps Falleaf had taken in the past and had arranged by Tuesday. They also recommended performances end at midnight Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday and that any lighting be directed toward the stage.
But the thorniest stipulation for Falleaf is the requirement he contract a bonded security agency, which would provide a $10,000 security bond. Leavenworth County Sheriff David Zoellner said the bond would protect his office from overtime expenses if deputies had to respond to a situation at the festival.
Should Falleaf obtain the security bond by the deadline of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the commission will consider the permit Thursday.
Falleaf said Tuesday he was still looking of a security agency.
“I've got probably 15 people right now looking,” he said. “All the security agencies think the timeframe is too short with the county.
“I'm confident it'll work out. A lot of people have their heart set on it. They're excited to play.”
Should the event go forward, tickets for the three-day event, which can be purchased at the gate, are $75, or $30 for Friday, $40 for Saturday and $35 for Sunday. Performances will start at noon all three days and end at midnight the first two nights and 8 p.m. Sunday.