Saratoga County

Concert cleanup a ritual at SPAC

By 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Dave Matthews Band fans were long gone from Saratoga Performing Arts Ce

By 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Dave Matthews Band fans were long gone from Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s parking lot after Saturday night’s concert, but evidence of their reveling remained.

The acres of asphalt were dotted with red, blue and orange Solo cups, empty liquor bottles, potato chip bags, half-full trash bags, soggy outerwear and a sprinkling of pistachio shells.

In Saratoga Spa State Park, which adjoins SPAC, workers said they had been picking up concert-related refuse since 6 a.m.

Park employees wearing blue plastic gloves were cleaning bathrooms and tidying pavilions, the beds of their green trucks brimming with trash.

Park maintenance worker Evaristo Valentin and New York State Parks’ regional plumber Mark Holmes were maneuvering a motorized cart through the park, stopping every few feet to retrieve beer cans and plastic cups from the bushes, likely tossed there by concert-goers who partied in the rain before Saturday’s nearly sold-out show.

By 7:50 a.m. Sunday, the park was close to pristine, thanks to the work of about 25 employees, and nearly ready for DMB fans to start arriving for the Sunday evening show.

Saturday’s rainy weather kept pre-concert festivities somewhat subdued, which made the clean-up job easier, Holmes said.

“There have been years when we can’t even get it finished before we have to start parking cars again [for the next concert],” he noted.

Police efforts to enforce a no-alcohol policy in the park and in SPAC parking lots helped keep down the mess too, Valentin said.

Despite the strict stance taken by authorities, beer and liquor bottles were well represented in the post-concert debris.

Valuables are often discovered along with the trash, according to Holmes and Valentin, who said over the years they have found cellphones, iPods, money and drugs.

Because of the massive number of concertgoers who converge on the park, the bathrooms there take a beating.

“There have been times they’ve gotten them so plugged we’ve had to jet out the lines,” Holmes said, recalling other instances when sinks had been torn from the walls.

But Saturday’s concert crowd didn’t cause any damage, to Holmes’ knowledge.

Parking fees pay cost

The park cleanup, overseen by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, is paid for by parking fees collected during the concert, according to Marcia White, SPAC’s president, who commented via email.

Live Nation, which partnered with SPAC to bring the Dave Matthews Band to the venue, bears the cost for all cleanup and maintenance at SPAC, she noted.

Post-show cleanup begins at SPAC as soon as the last concertgoer exits the gates, she said, adding that a crew of between 30 and 40 people work until the job is done.

A separate crew of about six workers is charged with cleaning SPAC’s parking lots.

A lone worker was sweeping up cigarette butts on the SPAC grounds at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. He’d already been on the job for nine hours, he said.

“It’s a pain, every concert, especially when you have to pick it up by hand,” said the worker, who identified himself as Jim, but did not want to give his last name.

The overnight efforts of the cleaning staff were evident early Sunday. Very little trash remained on SPAC’s lawn, which sustained surprisingly little damage from the thousands of dancing feet that matted it down Saturday night.

“It was a mess,” Jim said, noting that workers sometimes use leaf blowers to corral the garbage into piles, but due to the previous day’s rain it was too wet for that.

Amid the refuse, Jim said he hasn’t found much more valuable than spare change, but according to White, concertgoers have left behind everything from wallets to wedding rings.

“Everything that is found is cataloged by show and locked up at SPAC’s security office until it can be matched with its proper owner,” she said.

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