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#Fest brings problems with traffic to Athens

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The #Fest just celebrated its 13th anniversary, and it is becoming an increasing headache for Athens residents.

This year, residents say that traffic down Ohio State Route 56 and Union Street was backed up for miles with both foot and vehicular traffic.

Those attending the fest who were unable to ride the provided shuttles back into town were forced to walk from the venue, which for some, was a more than 3 mile trek.

The Monday meeting of the Athens City Council came to a close with an open forum where disgruntled citizens were invited to share their comments and concerns with their elected officials regarding the traffic that this year’s #Fest brought.

While it was broadcast that no foot traffic would be allowed on the highway, and those who walked to or from #Fest would be arrested, law enforcement was unable to help clear the traffic after the event.  #Fest attendees were promised shuttles back to their homes, which were advertised as included in the price of their tickets, many students like Junior Alex Schell were not able to get a ride back to campus.

“We got not even 40 feet away from the venue when the police got on the shuttle and told us everyone had to get off or that we would be arrested,” Schell said. “No one wants to walk three miles home, drunk or sober, no one was expecting to have to do that.”

According to Prime Social Group, the group that created the #Fest, more than 20,000 people were in attendance at last weekends #Fest.

Residents did not place all blame on the attendees. Athens resident, Alice Retuff said she felt like the council should have taken a more proactive role in getting the city ready for the #Fest.

“You guys really let us down,” Retuff said.

Resident Jaymie Strecker says even law enforcement was not properly equipped to handle the #Fest this year.

She said she called the police about an unlicensed cab and was simply told they were too busy to help her.

“This shows that this is more than our local law enforcement can handle,” Strecker said.

Resident Janet Polzer also called for the council to step up and be more active with precautionary measures.

“It seems as though the fest was put in place and then people started to realize there was a problem,” said Polzer. “Now we’re all in the position of reacting to the situation instead of establishing acceptable standards and practices before these huge events take place.”

Others like Alan Swank said they understand that Fests are a part of Athens culture, but they need to change how they are regulated.

“We’ve always had fests since 1972 in Athens,” Swank said. “But they have to go away in their present form.”

The Council remained receptive to comments from residents, and said they hope to make #Fest a safer and more controlled event in the future.

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