Schenectady County

Bisco bakes but vibe still cool (with video)

Staying cool at Camp Bisco is easy provided a few simple steps are taken.

Staying cool at Camp Bisco is easy provided a few simple steps are taken.

Use wet-wipes or ice cubes to keep the skin cool in the baking sun and keep a spray bottle handy for when it gets really hot. Keep hydrated, seek shade and if all else fails, do what most fans do at the three-day music festival at the Indian Lookout Country Club in the hamlet of Mariaville

“Just generally take your clothes off,” said Sara Laskowski of Delaware, wearing a bikini top and cutoff shorts.

Camp Bisco roared into its second day Friday as temperatures soared into the low 90s. Arid conditions left the sprawling 200-acre campground swirling with dust amid the foot traffic and every passing vehicle.

Bandanas and bags of ice became hot commodities as the afternoon wore into the evening. The dust caked the cars and bodies of the campers who arrived when the gates opened late Wednesday but was only a bit less dense on the newcomers showing throughout Friday.

“I would have brought my respirator from work if I knew it was this bad,” mused Mike, a chemist from New Jersey who wouldn’t give his last name.

C.J. Cowen and Aaron Stough didn’t have to worry much about the dust. Both wore full-body suits that covered every inch of their skin amid the sweltering heat.

“It was a very bad wardrobe decision that was made at the last minute,” said Stough, a nine-time veteran of Bisco, while smoking a cigarette through the mask of his black and white checkered suit.

Both anticipated the normal procession of thunderstorms that typically roll over Bisco at least once over its three days. Instead, they found themselves relying on a few household methods to stay cool and fresh in their hot attire.

“A lot of water and antiperspirant,” Stough mused.

But the heat and dust didn’t deter the crowd from enjoying the visual oddities and genial atmosphere of Bisco, now in it’s 11th year. Estimates of the numbers were inconsistent. Gazette reviewer Brian McElhiney was told by some workers that 30,000 were there, but organizers offered qualified numbers in the 12,000 range — roughly the permit limit for the event.

Alcohol and variety of pharmacological or illegal substances kept fans jamming throughout the day, even when conditions veered sharply into unpleasant heat during the daylight hours.

“We’re all here together,” beamed Sara Jelenffy of Boston. “Peace, love, unity and respect. That’s what this is all about.”

Sure enough, there was a sense camaraderie among the masses: A couple of beers shared between strangers passing by; fans offering Indian Lookout’s biker security squad cold water amid the sweltering heat; and other random acts of sharing. Fans shared water when standing before crowded stages and were quick to offer a splash from a bottle or blast from a squirt gun to help cool one another.

“People share,” Laskowski explained. “It’s a camp.”

Organizers were pleased with how the festival was unfolding Friday, even if it seemed like a lighter draw than previous years. Spokesman Chad Shearer said fans were still looking for tickets to attend Saturday’s lineup, which includes popular acts like Bassnectar and the headlining Disco Biscuits.

“We are very pleased with how the festival has gone thus far and look forward to another successful day,” he said Friday.

But Bisco also has it’s darker side. The consumption of drugs and booze kept Indian Lookout’s cadre of local emergency medical technicians increasingly busy throughout the late afternoon and into the evening.

The action followed a death at the campground discovered late Wednesday morning. A worker helping set up the campground’s concession stand was discovered dead in his tent by fellow campers after suffering an apparent overdose; state police later found a variety of illicit drugs in his tent.

Members of the Duanesburg Volunteer Ambulance Corps kept sentry at the campground Friday, sharing duties with Mohawk Ambulance when they needed to haul an injured or addled fan to a hospital. Ellis Hospital in Schenectady reported admitting six fans — ranging from broken bones to drug overdoses — from when the gates opened late Wednesday evening until late Friday afternoon. State police and the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department reported a handful of drug-related arrests but no serious incidents. Police patrol the roads around the campground but security inside Indian Lookout is private.

In all, roughly two dozen fans had to be taken from the campground during the first half of the festival. Donna Evans, a spokeswoman for Ellis, said the emergency room wasn’t as active as hospital officials initially anticipated, but pledged it would continue to keep additional staff on hand. The entertainment runs through today and the scene will clear Sunday.

“We planned in advance of this and increased the emergency staff so we’re prepared,” she said.

Fans were generally dismissive of overdose reports. Many said they realized what they could ingest safely and blamed the cases of hospitalization on the few that didn’t know when to stop.

“The majority of people know their limits,” Jelenffy said. “And then there are those few stragglers.”

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