Is BottleRock Napa different this year?

Crowds, BottleRock Napa Valley

Crowds at BottleRock Napa Valley at the Napa Valley Expo on Sept. 3, 2021. Adam Pardee/STAFF.

NAPA — It was just like in years past—for the most part—at BottleRock Napa Valley on Friday and early Saturday. There were the typical throngs of people young and old crowding the stages, walking paths and food stalls. By far, most were unmasked. If you didn’t look closely at signs requiring masks inside buildings, the vaccination proof or negative COVID-19 checks at the gates, you might not think anything was all too different

Inside the gates, attendees chatted with friends, took selfies in front of the art installations, made plans for which artists they wanted to see, without a fear of spreading the disease or getting sick.

“I feel comfortable because of the vaccinations,” said Molly Longchamps, who was attending with Sebastian Varela of Orinda.

“Later we’ll wear masks,” Varela said, echoing a common sentiment from attendees. He added that he was pleased BottleRock was requiring vaccinations or negative test results (with a couple days of each show day) for admittance.

“It’s totally justifiable asking people to be vaccinated,” he said.

Indeed, a BottleRock spokesman said that while the percentages of vaccinated attendees to those who showed proof of a negative test result were still being tabulated, but that initial results were indicating many more people were vaccinated rather than showing test results.

“Just because of the protocols here, it’s a safe environment,” said Nick Lake of Sacramento, as he took a break to study the schedule on Friday.

Greg Knesel of Monterey originally bought tickets to the 2020 festival and collected his refund before buying tickets again for this event. He said he had attended numerous BottleRock Napa fests and was most excited to see repeat performer Mondo Cozmo. He, too, said he had a contingency in case it got too crowded for his liking.

“If it gets too crowded, I’ll put my mask on,” he said. “I’m vaccinated so I feel OK.”

It did get crowded eventually, but not as much as in years past. Social media was flooded in recent weeks with people trying to unload tickets, both those not willing to meet the festival’s safety requirements and those who, despite the requirements, expressed concerns about their safety.

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