The Virginia Department of Health has opened an investigation into how and why festivalgoers are still dealing with the ailments weeks after the fest was canceled mid-weekend due to severe weather concerns.
According to 10 News, some of those affected by the illness cited “unsanitary conditions” largely related to the portable toilets at the festival. The Virginia Department of Health confirmed that the festival “violated numerous health codes,” but none were severe enough to shut down the event; the weather concerns did that for them.
The health department also launched an online survey for anyone who attended the festival, whether they’re suffering gastrointestinally or not. “We ask all people that attended the festival to complete this survey, even if you didn’t become ill,” they said. “Collecting information on both those who became ill and those that did not become ill helps us identify and evaluate differences between the two groups.”
ABC 13 reports that, in the aftermath of the cancellation, Attorney General Jason Miyares said that his office had been contacted by attendees with complaints about the festival. “Anything that comes to our office, we evaluate, and it’s on a case-by-case basis,” Miyares said earlier this week. “But I do have a rule; I don’t comment if there is even a pending case because of the nature of the sensitivity.”
The health department’s investigation comes amid speculation that the festival was canceled not due to the severe weather but because of an impending strike from behind-the-scenes workers in protest of the fest’s poor working conditions. “There was absolutely nothing set in preparation for our arrival,” an anonymous stagehand told WDBJ7. “No showers, no toilets, no fencing that was expected to be there, and a lot of it didn’t start showing up until right at dusk.”
In a new statement Friday, organizers denied that the festival was canceled for anything other than the weather concerns, as well as asked fans still awaiting their refunds for patience.
“Blue Ridge deeply regrets the unexpected turn of events that led to the festival’s cancellation,” the statement said. The decision, although difficult, was taken in collaboration with an emergency management team, comprised of local, county, and state officials, as well as venue representatives. It was a collective choice made in the best interest of everyone’s safety, including attendees, musicians, and campers. Contrary to some claims, the decision was based solely on safety concerns caused by the weather.”
Organizers continued, “Due to a combination of internal considerations and external factors, we are unable to offer more details at this time, but we are looking forward to doing so. We appreciate your patience and understanding and will communicate further information as soon we are able.”
While the majority of Blue Ridge Rock Festival’s lineup was wiped out, some fans witnessed an impromptu acoustic gig by Oliver Anthony, Papa Roach and Shinedown before vacating the health hazard.