TRUMANSBURG, N.Y.—Organizers of the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance and municipal officials are reporting that this year’s festival was run smoothly and avoided the regulatory violations that marred GrassRoots last year.

In 2022, GrassRoots racked up a total of $35,000 in fines from Tompkins County Board of Health and Ulysses Town Justice Mark Dresser for going forward with the festival — which marked the 30th anniversary of GrassRoots — without the necessary permits to operate parking and camping outside of the Trumansburg Fairgrounds, where the festival is held. 

GrassRoots, which saw over 80 acts play across four stages this year, remained in full regulatory compliance with the Town of Ulysses and Tompkins County throughout the festival’s 2023 operations, county and town officials confirmed to The Ithaca Voice. That success is coupled with the festival returning to its former mass attendance of around 15,000 people, according to GrassRoots’ organizers. 

Elizabeth Cameron, Director of Environmental Health at Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH), told The Ithaca Voice in a statement that “TCWH looks forward to discussing the 2023 operations in more detail with festival organizers to build off the positive changes implemented this year and to continue to improve the health and safety aspects of the event in 2024 and beyond.”

Town of Ulysses Supervisor Katelin Olson said in a statement that the town was “pleased with the 2023 festival,” and that minor issues “were successfully resolved as they were discovered.”

“The collaboration between the festival organizers, Tompkins County Whole Health, and the Town of Ulysses worked very well this year,” Olson said.

Russ Friedell, GrassRoots’ Marketing Director, said festival organizers are “grateful to the county and the town for bearing with us here as we continue to grow and develop.”

The application GrassRoots needed to submit in order to receive a mass gathering permit to  allow camping and parking outside of the Trumansburg Fairgrounds is over 250 pages long, Friedell said.

He said the festival organizers recognize that the application for the mass gathering permit is a “very large undertaking for the health department’s resources.”

 “All in all, those things can be scary — ‘The government. Oh no!’” Friedell said, “But it really was a respectable pleasure working with them.”

GrassRoots employed the consulting services of Whitham Planning and Design, a planning and landscape architecture firm in Ithaca, to create “properly laid out” maps for the camping and parking areas outside of the fairgrounds, Friedell said.

Olson said the consultants and on-site managers GrassRoots used this year “significantly improved the process from the Town’s perspective, and contributed to a much safer environment for everyone.”

With the book closed on GrassRoots 2023 now in the books, Friedell said, “Now, at the end of it, we on our side feel like we have a very renewed relationship with the county and town having put on a very smooth and successful year.”

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn