Fired up: Wintergreen chief trashes Lockn’, UVA medical

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Lockn' Festival. Photo: Tom Daly Lockn’ Festival. Photo: Tom Daly

The chief of Wintergreen Fire & Rescue appears unhappy that his bid to provide emergency medical services to Lockn’ this year was not accepted, and he posted a complaint on Facebook July 18 that takes aim at Lockn’ and UVA Health System, the likely new EMS provider.

“Unfortunately, the festival has never been profitable and this year the promoters were forced to make major changes,” writes Chief Curtis Sheets. “The most significant change was to cut the scope of the event in half. Reducing the scope opened the door for other vendors to bid on the services we typically provide.”

Lockn’ organizer Dave Frey provides a different reason for the change. The four-day event this year moves from Oak Ridge estate, where it has been held the past four years, to Infinity Downs, which Frey and partner Peter Shapiro own.

This year’s August 24-27 festival doesn’t have headliners like the Dead, the Who or Bob Seger who have taken the stage in the past, says Frey. That’s why he anticipates a smaller festival of around 15,000 instead of around 30,000. And he disputes Sheets’ allegation the event is “capped” at 15,000.

The new venue has 11 gates rather than the 37 at Oak Ridge. “There’s no point in being overstaffed,” says Frey, and the amount of police, fire, EMS and food should be proportionate to the number of people attending.

“Curtis turned in the same bid as last year,” says Frey.

Sheets points out that Lockn’ promised to use local contractors, and that others will suffer with the change, including the Nelson County Rescue Squad, from which Wintergreen leased ambulances. The Wintergreen squad won’t have Lockn’ income for capital expenditures, says Sheets, and the staff will lose the opportunity to earn money for “family vacations and Christmas funds.”

“Wintergreen is a for-profit EMS,” says Frey. Lockn’ will be re-engaging the Lovingston Fire Department, Nelson County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police, he says.

In his Facebook screed, Sheets says he had “copious conversation” with UVA administration about the “inappropriateness” of expanding UVA’s special event business into rural Nelson. “UVA assured me that if invited to bid, they would waive off the opportunity because it could undermine a rural EMS system, which is a partner in the UVA network,” he writes.

“I’ve never seen an emergency response entity attack another like this,” says Frey. “Curtis acted like we owed it to him. If we don’t engage UVA, we’ll go somewhere else.”

When C-VILLE spoke to Frey July 20, he said UVA had not been hired. On July 24, he said UVA would be hired soon.

Sheets did not respond to phone calls and an email from C-VILLE Weekly. His post on the fire and rescue’s Facebook page has been removed.

“It’s a shame,” says Frey. “I really like Curtis as a person.”

Most of the medical issues at the festival are heat and dehydration, says Frey, who touts the skills of Dr. Bill—UVA’s emergency medicine prof William Brady—in the MASH tent, which makes the event safer, he says.

“We’ve spent millions engaging people in Nelson County,” he says.

He adds, “We’re about safety first.”

Correction August 1: Bob Seger’s name was misspelled.

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