Oldest city prepares for British invasion

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The biggest concert in St. Augustine history -- and does it ever have a history -- is less than a week away, as an popular English folk rock band headlines a two-day music festival.

Organizers are expecting 25,000 fans at the main concert venue -- Francis Field -- to hear Mumford and Sons and a dozens other bands perform. The largest previous event at that site was about 9,000.

To accommodate the crowd, old fences were taken down and new, temporary fences were put up to expand the field and to also keep music fans in the right area.

MORE ONLINE: Concert lineup | Shuttle information

Ryan Murphy, general manager of St. Augustine Amphitheater, says his venue wasn't considered since it only has 4,000 seats, but his company has played a major role in the planning the festival stop. Murphy says extensive planning and collaboration of multiple Northeast Florida agencies ease his mind about dealing with the large crowds, which are expected to take over St. Augustine for two days. 

Many streets will be closed. Due to the anticipated congestion, Flagler College has canceled classes on Friday.

"There's really events happening around the city. That's going to help spread people out and kind of hit the different corners of the city," Murphy said. "There's not going to be a mass exodus after the concert."

Another thing expected to help with the thousands of people is a shuttle system implemented for the weekend. It's $30 per person, will take concert goers to six different places and includes discounts at various restaurants and bars around the city and it includes discounts at various restaurants and bars around the city.

"That's really to help, not only to get people to park outside the city and take the shuttles in, but to also encourage people who are visiting to take the shuttles to different areas in the community all weekend long," Murphy said.

While Mumford and Sons intentionally picked four smaller, unique cities for its GOTR tour, multiple groups helped decide that Francis Field was the most appropriate location for the large number of people expected.

"They really look at the square footage; they work with emergency management people; they work with the fire marshals locally; and they really evaluate it in and out," Murphy said.

Mark Samson, spokesman for the St. Augustine Police Department, says the help of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and the shuttle service will help keep cars out of the most congested areas.

"The Sheriff's Office, they're taking care of all of the parking for us at the satellite parking lot at the airport," Samson said.

Samson says his department has been planning for months and they are used to big events, so he feels comfortable with its plan.

"The St. Augustine Police Department is fairly comfortable with large crowds," Samson said. "We do a huge Fourth of July thing ... and 6 million visitors a year."

Samson added hopes concertgoers use good judgement so everyone can stay safe and have a good time.

"I don't think its going to be a real big thing, law enforcement wise, Samson said. "We're hoping folks really enjoy the weekend. The other venues are telling us its been a real good time in the other cities, so were hoping for the same thing here."

Not only will the city profit from all the visitors this weekend, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent just to prepare the venues with stages, lighting and sound equipment, along with the concessions and relief stations to support the crowd.

While the main concerts at Francis Field are sold out, Murphy said there will be enough going on that even people without tickets can "enjoy the overall vibe."

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