GREENFIELD — When it returns in August, the Green River Festival, which has been held at Greenfield Community College since 1986, will instead set up at the Franklin County Fairgrounds.
Festival Director Jim Olsen, co-founder of Signature Sounds Recordings in Northampton, said the college couldn’t commit to opening its campus to the public until fall, so the festival needed to find an alternate site.
“We’ve been using the fairgrounds for camping for the festival since 2016,” Olsen said. “It’s an amazing facility.”
Olsen said he’s not sure how large the GCC campus is, but the fairgrounds has a “larger usable space.” He said there are 28 usable acres at the fairgrounds, so not only will the festival be held there, but campers will be welcomed back at the same time.
“There’s a lot of parking, but not as much as at GCC, so we’re working on figuring that out,” he continued. “It will be a combination of on- and off-site parking, and we’ll have shuttles.”
Olsen said campers will occupy one area (to be determined) of the fairgrounds and the festival will be spread throughout. The festival will most likely use the pavilion and grandstand area, and organizers are currently planning to have music in the historic Roundhouse.
“That will be awesome,” Olsen said. “We’ll have our typical three main stages. We’ll be announcing the lineup in the spring.”
Michael Nelson, president of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, which operates the fairgrounds, said those involved would not be against the Green River Festival deciding to stay at the fairgrounds for future years.
“We’d certainly be willing to work with them,” Nelson said. “We’ve had festival campers here since 2016 — not last year because of the pandemic — and the sound people are amazing to work with. They’re great partners.”
Nelson said the agricultural society is “very enthusiastic” and loves that the festival will become part of the history at the fairgrounds.
“It’s so exciting,” he said.
Olsen said the festival has, in past years, typically accommodated 6,000 people per day, and he hopes to do the same this year.
“Of course, we’ll be following state and local guidelines for social distancing and such, so those plans will all come in time,” he said. “Things seem to be trending in the right direction concerning COVID and President (Joe) Biden is saying everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by late May.”
Olsen said the dates of Aug. 27 through Aug. 29 were chosen to give a little more time for people to be vaccinated and feel safe returning to the music festival. (The event is typically held in July.) It was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
“We’re really hopeful we can pull this off one way or the other this year,” he said. “If it ends up not being possible, well then it does, but we’re moving ahead with our plans.”
Olsen said organizers are not yet sure if hot air balloons will be a part of the festival this year. He said they won’t be able to give rides because of the fairground’s configuration, the neighborhood and the overhead wires, but he hopes that maybe tethered rides and the light show will be possible.
“We’ll be looking more closely at that,” he said. “It’s not a balloon-friendly site.”
Organizers plan for food and drinks to be sold on-site, but don’t yet know if state and local guidelines will allow for it. If guidelines do allow it, the festival will feature a wide selection of food, plus local beer and wine, and will continue to offer children’s activities. The Maker’s Market craft fair will also return, offering handmade items from across western New England.
The fairgrounds also offers improved accessibility for patrons with disabilities, Olsen said, including compliant restrooms; wider, paved walkways; and an (Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant) area for the Main Stage.
Olsen said the dates of the festival are a couple of weeks before the Franklin County Fair in September, so there will be plenty of time for the fair’s organizers to get ready. He said the Green River Festival’s organizers and volunteers, along with hires, set up and clean up the site, so that won’t be an issue.
“You’d never know on Monday morning at GCC that anything had happened there the weekend of the festival,” he said. “A lot of that is our crowds. People are so good about disposing of their trash and recycling.”
Nelson said the agricultural society plans to hold the Franklin County Fair this year as it typically does, but will make modifications if it has to. He said with COVID-19 numbers decreasing and people getting vaccinated, he is “extremely optimistic” that it will be held as usual.
“We start planning the fair a year in advance, so plans are already underway,” he said. “We have ideas of how to shorten it, limit capacity, not hold as many events, all sorts of things if local or state guidelines require us to modify our plans. We’ll make a decision about the fair by July 1. Until then, we’ll look forward to the Green River Festival being here.”
Tickets for the 2021 Green River Festival go on sale March 17 at noon. All tickets held from the canceled 2020 festival will be honored for 2021. For those not able to attend the 2021 festival, refunds will be offered through March 16. All ticket information is available at greenriverfestival.com.
Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or [email protected]