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Dylan, Mellencamp show leaves no trace

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Bob Dylan concert clean up
of the Billings Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, hoses down seating at Dehler Park after Wednesday's John Mellancamp and Bob Dylan concert. Photographed on Thursday, August 12, 2010.

Less than 12 hours after Bob Dylan and his band packed up and left, there was no sign that he had played before about 8,000 people Wednesday night at Dehler Park.

The cropped grass in the outfield was a deep green, the infield was smooth and there wasn’t a speck of trash on the field. The only things missing were the bases, which will be in place before tonight’s Mustang’s game.

“We’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to it,” city Parks Director Mike Whitaker said of the stadium’s first major concert. “But we’ve had some negative response as it relates to the sound.”

It was a rock concert, after all, so there probably should be complaints about the noise. But the complaints didn’t come during the concert. The city received one complaint during the sound check earlier in the afternoon. Whitaker said musicians tend to crank up the sound during their sound check to be sure everything is working right.

“When they calibrated their equipment in the middle of the day, it was very loud and that’s when the person called in to complain,” he said. “The concert wasn’t half as loud as calibrating the equipment.”

But Dylan’s raspy crooning and Mellencamp’s rocking could be heard throughout downtown. Many neighborhood residents, either excited for the concert or simply resigned to it, set up lawn chairs and tables in their front yards.

Mike Hill, who lives on North 25th Street a little more than a block away from the stadium, said the event wasn’t much different from a baseball game. People parked in front of his house as usual, but this time he could hear Dylan instead of the crack of a bat.

“I think we should have more concerts there,” Hill said Thursday.

Billings Clinic, just across North 27th Street from the stadium, cautiously watched concert preparations and brought in some extra security to make sure patients and families could still get into the hospital. Jim Duncan, president of the Billings Clinic Foundation, said the clinic worked with the city to resolve its concerns beforehand. The clinic allowed people to park in most of their lots. He said others camped on the clinic’s lawn to listen to the concert.

“At first we weren’t sure what to expect. We were concerned with how having 8,000 to 10,000 people in the medical corridor would impact our hospital and our emergency operations,” Duncan said. “We feel that it went very well from our perspective.”

Duncan said the clinic tried to keep patients out of rooms that overlooked North 27th Street, and they also passed out ear plugs. But some of the other rooms have balconies, and some families wound up sitting outside listening to the concert.

“They actually pulled their chairs out on the balcony to enjoy the music,” Duncan said.

There were plenty of police at the concert, where a large amount of alcohol was sold. But police Sgt. Kevin Iffland said his officers didn’t face any serious challenges. There were a handful of medical calls to deal with drunken fans, but no one was seriously hurt, he said.

No one was arrested or cited inside the park, but police volunteers handed out about 75 parking tickets for the usual violations, Iffland said.

On Thursday morning, groundskeepers reported finding about $95 in loose bills, which went toward coffee and donuts for crew members. 

By noon Thursday, workers were power-washing seats and stairs, and Mustangs General Manager Gary Roller was waiting for his head groundskeeper before touring the field. Roller said he had been nervous about the concert and its effects on the field, but said he was pleased with the outcome. There was a little damage to the warning track at the edge of the outfield, but Roller said repairs shouldn’t be too difficult. Rubber mats protected the grass while allowing air to circulate, Roller said.

“I think they did an outstanding job of protecting that outfield,” Roller said.

Whitaker said he wants to find a better way to corral smoking during future concerts. Event staffers set up a small smoking area near one of the gates, but Whitaker said the city will work on a more permanent solution.

The city received $1 per ticket sold, and $3 for tickets sold from the Parks Department’s office. In all, the city should make around $9,000 from the concert. Whitaker said details of the financial results would be available later, adding that the city will work with others interested in putting on concerts at the park.

Workers from the medical corridor made their usual lunchtime laps around the concourse on Thursday, while Carolyn and Gerry Danko walked into the stadium to see what it looked like after the concert. From Powell, Wyo., the Dankos were in Billings to attend a funeral and have been to baseball games at Dehler Park.

“Boy, what a grounds crew,” Carolyn Danko said. “Billings does things well. They really do.”


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