Board of Supervisors approves agreement after concerns are addressed

The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a permit for Lightning in a Bottle, a five-day music and arts festival expected to bring up to 20,000 people to Buena Vista Lake in mid-May.
The approval came two weeks after the Supervisors withheld approval pending more information about preparations for the event, but gave DoLab permission to start ticket sales for the event.

Tuesday's decision involved a potential large economic benefit to the county and concerns about public safety and traffic problems.

In the end, the Supervisors were assured that traffic to the event would be routed to minimize impact to Highway 119, the Kern County Sheriff could handle the law enforcement aspects and the county could see up to $3 million pumped into the economy from the 5-day event on May 8-13.

Lightning in a Bottle, which had been held at Lake Nacimiento in Monterrey County for the the past five years, had to find a new site after its contract to operate the festival was revoked.

Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, whose district includes Buena Vista lake, said his concerns about traffic and crowd issues were eased at a meeting a week ago involving Kern County staff and Lightning in a Bottle organizers.

He joined the rest of the Board in approving the permit for the festival two weeks after a vote to postpone a decision until concerns could be addressed.

"For me it was all about the traffic and our Sheriff's ability to staff the event," Scrivner said Tuesday after the vote.

The Feb. 19 meeting convinced Scrivner it could be done.

"I got all of my concerns addressed," he told the Taft Midway Driller. "The Sheriff assured us his office would be able to handle it."

It will involve mandatory overtime for deputies, Scrivner said, but other Kern County events, including the Kern County Fair and Whiskey Flat Days, also have deputies working mandatory overtime.

Traffic was a major concern with fears of traffic backing up for a mile or more on Highway 119, but there's a plan to prevent that, too.

Scrivner said the event organizers and, CHP and County staff came up with a plan to route traffic into Buena Vista without using Highway 119. Traffic on coming to the event will be routed from I-5 onto Bear Mountain Boulevard to to Coles Levee Rd to Union Rd then connecting with Enos Lane just north of the entrance to Buena Vista.

The County will be reimbursed for all of its out-of-pocket expenses and Lightning in a Bottle will pay $225,000 to hold the event.
All of that money will be used for upgrades and maintenance at Buena Vista. In addition, event organizers will be replacing the plastic underground utility boxes with concrete boxes at their own expense.

The potential boost to the Kern County economy could be significant, Scrivner said.

He was told it could bring in about $3 million.
Several business organizations spoke in favor of the festival, including the Kern County Economic Development Corporation, Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

While most of the people attending the festival will be staying at the lake, the event employees and performers will be staying in Kern County hotels and motels.