'Ready to rock' again: Area leaders recap Rock The Country

Apr. 23—COALTON — As the dust settles on the Rock the Country festival grounds, upon where up to 30,000 concertgoers descended this weekend, Boyd County is hopeful it won't be the last.

Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney said while the official number of attendees and revenue for the county should be compiled by next week, "This is the definition of economic development through tourism."

"This is what we set out to do four or five years ago," Chaney said, adding the county has put an emphasis on shifting its focus toward collecting revenue through tourism dollars for the county and region.

"We're still going after industries, but for now, we changed what we can have a direct handle on, and that's tourism," Chaney said.

The two-day country music festival brought in big names including Kid Rock, Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert as well as thousands of people from near and far.

According to Andrew Steele, executive director of Boyd County Tourism, the official count for Friday was a little more than 28,000 and Saturday brought in more than 30,000, including travelers from multiple states and five different countries.

Steele said the festival included possible "polarizing idea(s) and lineup," and its success elicited some pride throughout the community.

"It gives the community a lot of pride. Our people did this and it was successful," Steele said, adding that for the first time, locals could say they experienced huge music acts "in our back yard."

As the locals got to experience a large music venue, those visiting from afar got the opportunity to see Boyd County at its roots.

"Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia, it carries a negative stigma," Steele said, referencing a region that is historically seen as the butt of the joke.

Steele said folks from Miami, Seattle, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas saw more than negative stereotypes.

"Our community is actually beautiful," Steele said.

Boyd County Tourism had an information booth at the festival, too, where Steele said his team was able to share other gems from the region that include hiking opportunities, ATV adventures and more.

"We used that opportunity to sell future visits," Steele said, adding these outside visitors equal money in the bank for Boyd County by booking up hotels with people who eat at local restaurants and stop by small business shops.

"It's all tourism trickle down. ... People visiting our attractions just dumps money into our community," Steele said, adding it wasn't just Boyd County who benefited this go around, as hotels were displaying no vacancy signs from Mount Sterling to Charleston, West Virginia.

Steele and Chaney both credited Boyd County's emergency management, Kentucky State Police and the Boyd County's Sheriff's Department for truly making things successful.

"Emergency Services is always working in the background," Chaney said. "It's good to know they've got your back. None of the emergency services have seen anything on that scale, but they're professionals."

Boyd Sheriff Jamie Reihs took a moment of rest on Monday to recap his perspective on the weekend's event which he said was, for the most part, smooth sailing.

"As busy as it was, it was definitely well worth it," Reihs said. "Having all these different people coming to our area, they were fairly well behaved — even those with too much to drink."

Reihs said of the thousands in attendance, the sheriff's department made only 11 arrests ranging from one incident that involved simple "pushing and shoving" to public intoxications.

Reihs said his men were contacted for one missing persons report, but the gentleman was found in no time, only "roaming" on a casual booze-induced stroll.

"For that number of people packed in there, everyone worked extremely hard to keep everybody safe," Reihs said, crediting 32 total deputies from Boyd, Elliott and Carter County's sheriff departments and KSP's traffic control.

Reihs also said the festival planner's and security "did a really good job of scanning people and conducting all the searches" to ensure no guns or potential weapons made it into the venue.

"We got a lot of positive feedback and it was our first one and we learned some things moving forward to hopefully have even more events like this past weekend," Reihs said.

Above all, the sheriff said there were no serious injuries.

"That was my big thing. Safety is a concern," Reihs said.

Joining Chaney in singing praises for local emergency management (specifically to Director Tim England and law enforcement), Steele said daily policing and emergency management is a tough gig, but when his team slipped the idea of 30,000 at an outdoor venue, the response was "let's do it."

"Just knowing someone from another area can come here, our people are ready to rock, literally," Steele said, adding he was optimistic the festival promoters made not only a profit, but that they'd be back.

"We hope to turn this from getting a chance (from the promoter) to making it happen to we have two or three festivals a year," Steele said.

Chaney offered the same optimism, adding, "We're just getting started. This is Event 1 and we're ready for more."

(606) 326-2652 — mjepling@dailyindependent.com