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More Than A Music Festival: Rothbury Planners Focusing On Sustainability

ROTHBURY (AP) — With six weeks to go before thousands of campers swarm the Double JJ Ranch in Oceana County for the Rothbury national music festival, the artist lineup is one of the main topics of conversation.

The inaugural, destination event will feature more than 70 artists, including the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Snoop Dogg, Modest Mouse and Colbie Caillat over the Fourth of July weekend.

And yet, organizers say music won't be the only focus of the festival, which they describe as "a sustainable camping festival celebrating music, art and action."

"There's no question music is the initial magnet for year one," said Rothbury Event Producer Jeremy Stein. "But on a more esoteric level, I think society needs a greater sense of community to find ways to discuss issues. And sustainability seems to be a matter close to our hearts at the moment."

Stein said Rothbury is aiming to be the nation's first around-the-clock music and camping festival to implement sustainability and zero-waste initiatives. The festival, which will occupy part of the Double JJ Ranch property in the small town of Rothbury, will also include workshops and discussion sessions about climate change, clean energy options and other environmental issues.

"We hope to be a model in making an event sustainable," said Rothbury Director of Communications Carrie Lombardi. "We don't claim to know everything about how to do that, but we are planning to learn a lot from year to year."

Rothbury's sustainability efforts include using compostable plates and cups, recycled paper, rechargeable batteries and solar power for lights and some stages. Organizers will be handing out personal ashtrays to smokers and are encouraging mass transit or carpooling to get to the festival.

More than 500 festival-goers will be part of Rothbury's Green Team — a work-exchange program where participants will help with recycling, replace trash bags and man the on-site composting stations in exchange for their festival ticket.

A farmer's market will also be on site, drawing local farmers who will help to feed the more than 35,000 campers expected for the four-day event.

In addition to these initiatives, event planners will hold "Think Tank" town hall discussions with "some of the world's leading policymakers, scientists, even some corporate entities that are really forward-thinking in renewable energy," said Stein.

"It's about great education," he said. "We're moving that media filter, that political filter, and we're connecting people with folks who really know the facts. And what's critical here is that, in an election year, this isn't an issue for the right or the left — we're presenting an issue we think should be common to any platform."

Stein said the response to the festival's environmental initiatives has been "overwhelming" — more than 700 applicants signed up for the Green Team in just three days.

Organizers also took care to sign musical acts that resonated with the festival's initiatives.

"I think that's why so many of our music artists were excited to get involved," said Stein. "They wanted to lend their voice to the issues and our sustainability efforts. Musically, if we were after anything, we were after integrity. But it's so much more than just a music festival."