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Wayne Post
  • REO speed limit: 0

  • Traffic was snarled in Farmington for much of Wednesday night as several thousand fans of pop/rock band REO Speedwagon descended upon Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack for the venue’s summer concert series opener.

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  • Traffic was snarled in Farmington for much of Wednesday night as several thousand fans of pop/rock band REO Speedwagon descended upon Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack for the venue’s summer concert series opener.
    Would-be concert-goers clogged intersections and shoe-horned themselves into parking spots on roadsides, neighboring lots and residents’ yards for miles around the concert site. Some parked in FLCR fields, and others even abandoned their vehicles in the driving lanes of the venue parking lot.
    Once out of their cars, many of them never made it past the gate.
    “It was by far the biggest turnout for a concert ever,” said Shannon Kingston, marketing specialist at FLCR. “We had to turn close to 1,000 people away.”
    The sheer size of the crowd came as a surprise, though FLCR staffers did see it coming on concert day.
    “REO Speedwagon has a huge following,” said Kingston. “They had over 11,000 in Buffalo Tuesday night for a paid concert, so we had an inkling earlier this afternoon that this was going to be big. People love their songs and will come out and see them — and it was a free concert.”
    The doors opened at 6:30 p.m., but fans started lining up at 4:30 p.m., and it wasn’t long before security guards at the gate and sheriff’s deputies directing traffic began turning people away.
    “We can’t get in — everything is full to the doors,” said Doug Rigby of Rushville as he walked away from the racetrack. “This is insanity.”
    Stephen Segal of Victor said it’s the first free FLCR concert he hasn’t been able to get into.
    “People are leaving because it’s so uncomfortable in there they can’t even move,” he said.
    Bonnie Tomian of Victor said she and Segal took the back roads to get to the concert.
    “We live right down the street and it took 45 minutes to get here,” said Tomian. “We waited in this line forever, and then they cut it off. But we love REO — we’ll go home and listen to the records.”
    John McCabe of Pittsford parked at Country Max at the corner of Route 332 and County Road 41 and hiked over to the lawn adjacent to the concert with his friends, Amy Patterson of East Rochester and Lauren Kahl of Fairport.
    “I saw the band 35 years ago,” said McCabe. “They haven’t changed a bit. They sound great, they really do.”
    Patterson said although she and her friends didn’t get in, it was a great experience anyway. They made the best of the night and went out for ice cream.
    Donald Allison of Farmington works on the “backside” of the track, at stabling, and stopped in to check on his grandfather’s racehorses.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s a bit loud so they’re all up,” said Allison. “They should be sleeping.”
    He didn’t stick around for the concert, but walked back home after listening to the band a little bit.
    McCabe said he felt sorry for the security staff, and wondered if they had good control over the partying concert-goers.
    “I think our security people were able to keep things under control as best they could,” said FLCR’s Kingston. “Everyone was hustling. We actually hired an outside security agency to come help us out.”
    The next few days at FLCR are set aside for debriefing concert strategy.
    “We’ll evaluate how this evening went and see how we can make improvements and make it the most positive guest experience we can,” said Kingston. “I’m sure we can learn from this.”
    One thing Doug Rigby would like to see improved is accessibility for the handicapped.
    “We were bringing someone who couldn’t walk and they wouldn’t even let us go in to drop her off at the door,” said Rigby. “That’s a bad thing when a person who’s handicapped can’t be dropped off.”
    Still, he left in a good mood.
    “I can’t imagine they had any idea of this crowd, but what can you do?” said Rigby. “I’ve been here for other shows and it’s usually very spacious, but tonight — no such thing. But there’s always another band another night.”
    Next up at FLCR will be The Charlie Daniels Band on July 17. Summer concerts are free and are held outdoors with seating available in the covered grandstand. Concert attendees must be 18 years or older.
     
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