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Are You Ready For The Phish Ball?

By Peter B. Gallagher

BIG CYPRESS - What if they held a concert on Jack Motlow's cattle pasture and 70,000 people came?

As time nears for the gargantuan Phish New Year's Eve 2000 camping/music concert on the Seminole Indian reservation here, that question is uppermost on everyone's minds - especially the Tribal members and others who live, work and drive along two-lane Snake Road.

And, while neither concert or Tribal officials can predict exactly what the impact will be on the normally peaceful Big Cypress community between noon Wednesday December 29 and noon Sunday January 2, this much is known:

It's going to be awfully crowded in the cow pasture.

People in Miami are going to wonder what those lights are west of the Everglades;

And the last time there was this much traffic in these parts, the U.S. Calvary was searching for Sam Jones and Billy Bowlegs.

A best-case scenario has been laid out, the Seminole Tribune has learned, that should make life inside one of the largest New Year's celebrations in the country pretty well manageable for the people and panthers who normally roam this most remote part of Florida.

"We have kept the Big Cypress residents in mind during all of our planning for this concert," says Dave Werlin, President of Great Northeast Productions, co-producer (with Dionysian Productions) of the large-scale Phish outdoor shows. "It is our goal to have minimal impact on the community. On all of our materials we have asked that the concert-goers respect the Seminole reservation.

"In our experience with past shows of this size, the people attending are peaceful and very environmentally conscious. Other than traffic, I really don't think residents' normal lives should be disrupted very much at all." Snake Road Restricted

Among the extraordinary efforts employed will be restrictions on travelling Snake Road (C.R. 833). Checkpoints will be established near the northern and southern Reservation lines beginning Sunday Dec. 26. and by Wednesday Dec. 28 only Big Cypress residents, Tribal workers and normal commercial and passing through traffic will be permitted to pass. Concert-related traffic from the north will be asked take an alternative route and enter from the I-75/Alligator Alley Exit 14.

On a normal day, an average of 400 vehicles, including tractor-trailers, pass through the Big Cypress community on Snake Road between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Even with the checkpoint in place, however, residents should expect heavier than normal traffic (perhaps more as the week progresses) due to "official" concert-related vehicles (supply trucks, vendors, production employees) coming in and out.

Information widely disseminated by Phish - including on the Internet (www.phish.com, www.greatnortheast.com/bigc/ and www.seminoletribe.com) - has instructed concert-goers to enter from the south only, by taking I-75/Alligator Alley exit 14 and proceeding to a checkpoint at the perimeter of the concert site.

Gates are currently scheduled to open at noon on Wednesday Dec. 29. Concert-goers who wish to exit and re-enter will only be able to do so through the southern entrance to the Reservation.

Big Cypress residents should note: traffic between Big Cypress and Alligator Alley Northbound traffic from Alligator Alley will be verrrry slow (often backed up). Travel to or from Ft. Lauderdale or Naples will be difficult. The Miccosukee Shell station at the Snake Road exit? Let's just say it will be the photo in the Y2K dictionary next to the definition for "Long Lines."

"I would hope Tribal residents will consider taking alternate routes during the heavy traffic days (Dec. 28 - Jan 2),'' says Chris Crowell , Director of Special Projects for Great Northeast. "For example, it could actually be faster for them to drive to Big Cypress by way of Immokalee. Given the traffic situation, Tribal members would be strongly advised to do any shopping or errands before (Wednesday) Dec. 28 and after (Sunday) Jan. 2."

Only persons/vehicles with special event permits will be allowed to drive through the Community between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2. Billie Swamp Safari, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and Big Cypress Hunting Adventures will be closed to the public from Dec. 28 through Jan. 2. Big Cypress Campground is closed now.

Tribal business will continue to be conducted, however, and government offices will be open. "Employees will be expected to report for work as usual," says Government Compliance Officer Chris O'Donnell. Tribal Member Permits

Special event permits will be issued to residents of Big Cypress and others who work on the reservation through the office of Big Cypress Councilman David Cypress at the Frank Billie Center (941-983-2157). "My staff will go door to door and make sure everyone who is supposed to have these permits receives them," said Cypress. "If we miss someone, they know how to find me."

Great Northeast Productions and Dionysian Productions (Phish) have agreed to give free admission to the concert to Tribal members and non-Tribal member spouses. These complimentary tickets can be obtained through Councilman Cypress just prior to the start of the concert. "These are supposed to be for Tribal member families only," said Cypress.

Everyone else has to buy a ticket, which offers camping and music for $175.

Tribal members driving to the Phish Concert will have to park in the parking/camping area (which covers all of Joe Frank's pasture and about half of Moses Jumper's) with everyone else. Mondo Tiger's Blue Top Construction Co. has built several miles of limerock roads in these pastures to assist the parking effort.

It may be a mile walk - or more - from your car to the concert field where the music is happening. Bicycles, skateboards, all manner of ATVs and any form of transportation other than feet will not be allowed. Pets are strictly forbidden.

Tribal member families with complimentary tickets should first go to the Employee Check-In tent in Mary Jumper's pasture across the street from the Rodeo Arena to receive additional credentials necessary to go in and out of the concert field freely. Vendors

Phish does not normally allow any commercial vendors at its outdoor performances. However, under the agreement with the Seminole Tribe, a limited number of Seminole vendors have been permitted to operate within the 26-acre concert venue during the hours when the band is playing. Information

Seminole Chairman James Billie has appointed Pete Gallagher of Communications as Tribal Liaison to the Phish Concert. Tribal members or employees with questions should contact Gallagher through Communications (954-967-3416) or on his mobile phone at 727-480-9445.

A temporary Phish radio station - Thin Air 91.7 FM - will begin broadcasting throughout the Big Cypress area on Dec. 28, including important traffic updates, concert safety information as well as simulcast performances from the main stage. The Seminole Police department will also have information for residents at 941-983-2285.

Speaking on behalf of the band, Great Northeast President Werlin says, "We hope that the long term benefits of bringing so much attention to Big Cypress will outweigh the relatively short term inconveniences to local residents. We appreciate the cooperation and enthusiasm for this event that has been expressed by so many members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and we are all looking forward to ushering in the New Year together in this very special place."

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