Concertgoers entitled to complimentary ticket for one of next two shows
By Joshua Maloni
A bomb investigation at Artpark in Lewiston delayed the start of the 54•40/Randy Bachman concert by more than two hours on Tuesday.
At about a quarter to 5 p.m., a bomb-sniffing dog alerted handlers of a suspicious smell. A second dog confirmed what the first dog caught. Subsequently, law enforcement agents and event security asked concertgoers and Artpark & Company volunteers to evacuate the amphitheater area. For nearly three hours, police teams thoroughly combed the front of the amphitheater stage - an area not accessible to the general public.
At the same time, two long lines of people were waiting to enter the venue - one at the Fourth Street main entrance, and a second at the Portage Road upper lot. They speculated on what was happening inside, posted social media messages, and about half of them ultimately left Artpark.
New York State Park Police cleared the stage area and allowed patrons to enter the venue shortly after 8 p.m. The 54•40 concert began about 8:35 p.m.
Meanwhile, Lt. Clyde Doty of the New York State Park Police explained to assembled media members, "As part of our routine security measures, we conduct K-9 explosive sweeps of designated areas within Artpark prior to every concert that takes place. At approximately 4:45 this afternoon, one of our K-9 teams, their dog had alerted in an area in front of the stage. That handler had made a second sweep, and the dog alerted a second time.
"As part of the plan here, we have help from another agency. And that dog had also made a sweep of the area, and alerted, as well. Because of that, the decision was made to call in ATF and Erie County Sheriff's Department bomb squad to check and clear the area."
He further stated, "The area was cleared. It was checked by use of X-ray equipment, as well as physical inspection of the area. It was found that there was nothing present."
Multiple social media accounts said there was a package found. Others suggested the smell of glue from a speaker.
"No," Doty said. "The dogs alerted on an odor of some sort. There's no telling what that odor was. The inspection of the area was conducted. There was no package or device or explosives found. And the area's been cleared by the (explosive ordnance disposal technicians)."
Patrons were kept outside the ampthitheater as law enforcement investigated a suspicious smell.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 3,100 tickets had been sold, which is a little more than 30 percent of Artpark's maximum crowd limit. Some of those people were in the amphitheater when the dogs made their detection.
"There was a small evacuation," Doty said. "At 4:45, there's not too many people. There were some people inside, and they were cleared back. They were asked to move back and clear the area for safety measures. ... Everybody was cooperative in moving. There were no issues or concerns there."
Doty said no threats had been called into the park, and there were no scheduled pyrotechnic displays. He said he didn't know why the dogs were stirred.
"You have to air on the side of caution," Doty said. "There's no way you could ignore it and say, 'Well, you have people waiting and people standing.' You just can't do that nowadays."
He noted, "Given the world events, it's just - we continuously evaluate our procedures and safety precautions, and try to improve on them all the time."
The concert was set to begin at 6:30 p.m., and end ahead of the Village of Lewiston's regular 10 p.m. curfew. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, the cutoff time was pushed to 10:30 p.m.
Bachman took the stage about 9:35 p.m. and ended just a few minutes past the new curfew.
Artpark & Company tweeted updates and posted messages on Facebook during the delay, informing patrons of the situation and expressing thanks for patience.
A few minutes before Bachman took the stage, Artpark & Company Executive Director Sonia Clark took the microphone and said, "I wanted to thank you guys for sticking around with us."
She announced a free ticket offer for those who were in attendance, as well as for those who had to leave earlier than expected.
In speaking with NFP afterward, Clark said patron safety is top priority. Still, she was sympathetic to those who had to wait hours to enter the park.
Clark said, "We really appreciate our fans who are here with us, who understand what it is to run a live show in this day and age. ... We're very grateful to (New York State Park Police) for making sure everybody is safe, first and foremost.
"And to thank everybody, we want to offer a free ticket to every ticketholder tonight, to the June 27 show with Brian Setzer's 'Rockabilly Riot' and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, or July 11, Loverboy and Kim Mitchell. They should bring their ticket stub to the box office any day, or day of show."
Complimentary general admission tickets will be presented based on availability. Tickets to both concert events have been on sale for several weeks.
The box office is located right outside the Mainstage Theater at 450 S. Fourth St. For more information, visit www.artpark.net
54•40 on stage at Artpark.