HUNTER — Tom Petty played one of his final concerts there. Beck, Alabama Shakes and the Black Keys exemplified contemporary rock’s diversity and virtuosity there. And breakout acts such as the Record Company, Alice Merton and Portugal the Man found new listeners there.
But after 14 years, the three-day Mountain Jam will not be returning to Hunter Mountain.
The event’s organizers announced Jan. 24 that the Jam, one of the nation’s top summer rock festivals, is moving out.
“This past Monday, the organizers of Mountain Jam, which is now under new ownership, informed us that after 14 years the festival will not take place at Hunter Mountain in 2019,” according to a statement released Feb. 1 by Hunter Mountain.
The buyer of the festival, the purchase price were not announced as of Tuesday at press time.
A new venue has not been announced. Radio Woodstock is a sponsor for Mountain Jam. Radio Woodstock President Gary Chetkof did not return multiple calls for comment Tuesday.
The festival featured bands on three stages and had become a beloved tradition on the mountaintop. It drew thousands of visitors each year.
“While we are disappointed to see the festival move, we would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to the many supporters who made Hunter Mountain a successful Mountain Jam venue for more than a decade, including our loyal customers, the Town of Hunter and Greene County,” according to the Hunter Mountain statement.
Jessica Shader, of Hudson, attended Mountain Jam for several years with a large group of friends and family. Her parents attended every jam since its inception in 2005.
“It became a family event for us,” Shader said. “The jam music is what we loved.”
After one of Mountain Jam’s founders, Warren Hayes, was no longer involved with the festival, it went downhill, Shader said. Since then, Shader’s family and friends started attending The Peach Music Festival, which takes place in July in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
“Jam bands are a certain genre,” she explained. “Last year, the festival just didn’t have the jam — it was more indie and mainstream. This year, they started advertising as ‘bringing back the jam.’ They certainly had taken that away and it evolved into something else.”
Many fans who faithfully purchased early bird tickets — which are available before the festival lineup is released — were upset with the selection of last year’s performers.
“They picked different music last year and they never mentioned that — it was a total shocker,” Shader said. “They came out with something that was in the completely opposite direction and I think after that, fans lost trust. We had faith in them to deliver a jam-based lineup and that wasn’t the case.”
On top of a changing music scene, Mountain Jam’s security and police presence became intrusive to the point of harassment, the music lover said, adding police gave concertgoers a tough time through security and during the festival.
“Jam fans don’t want to deal with that,” Shader said. “It wasn’t as free as it used to be. We’re here to have a fun time. [That] turned off a lot of people, but the damage was already done.”
Changing Mountain Jam’s venue is unfortunate, Shader said, but is likely the festival’s best chance of survival.
“Hunter Mountain is one of the best natural amphitheaters in this area,” the jammer said. “Losing that is sad, but I think the best thing they can do is start fresh somewhere.”
Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg is also sorry to see the festival go.
“I hate to see any business leave the area, but we understand because people move on and we wish them the best of luck,” Legg said.
Legg expects the community will feel the loss this summer, he said.
“Less people will be drawn to the area,” he said. “Hopefully someone will fill the void. Maybe another festival will take its place.”
Greene County Tourism Marketing Manager Heather Bagshaw predicted the economic impact on Greene County and the surrounding area will be huge.
Mountain Jam brought millions of dollars in revenue to the region.
“The total gross economic input in Greene, Dutchess, Ulster and Columbia counties was $6.7 million,” Bagshaw said, referring to an ecomonic impact study from 2015.
Of that amount, $2 million is contributed for labor and $883,990 in state and local tax. The federal tax burden was $570,158, according to the report.
“In 2015, 11,715 people attended Mountain Jam,” Bagshaw said. “Of those, 86 percent were from outside the four counties.”
The tourism department has supported the festival throughout the years, Bagshaw said.
“We had a great run with them,” she said. “I wish they stayed. Many festivalgoers are disappointed.”
The Great Northern Catskills’ marketing campaign contributed $70,000 to promotion of Mountain Jam in 2014, Bagshaw said.
“We will continue to welcome and promote any event,” she said. “We are very much a partner of any event in Greene County and anyone interested should call our office and we will work with them to find a location and promote their event every year.”
Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley agreed that the community will feel the loss.
“The festival brings a lot of money in the county,” he said. “For that aspect, it’s a shame.”
Seeley hopes that Hunter’s other big festival, Taste of Country, can kick things up a notch.
“Hopefully, Taste of Country ups it and can offset it,” the sheriff said.
The decision not to hold Mountain Jam in Hunter this year will not affect Taste of Country, which is scheduled to take place June 7-9 at Hunter Mountain.
Seeley noted a decline in Mountain Jam in recent years, he said.
“Everything doesn’t last forever,” he said. “Ticket sales had been going down the last three or four years. It was a matter of time.”
Some people may be happy to see the festival go because of the drug use that takes place, Seeley said.
“I don’t condone it [drug use],” he said. “If we saw it, you got arrested. We never turned our back to it.”
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office arrested 28 festival-goers at last year’s event, 24 of which were drug-related, Senior Investigator Joel Rowell said.