JEFFERSON — Traffic along N.C. 16 will be reduced to one lane only during the Blue Ridge BBQ & Brew Festival Aug. 30-31, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners decided by a 3-2 vote during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5.
Blue Ridge Theater and Events Center owner Steve Mochen, whose Glendale Springs venue is being leased out for the event, appeared before the board to request the lane closure, with Vice Chairman William Sands and Commissioner Larry Rhodes voting against the board majority.
The festival, organized by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, is expected to bring 2,000 or more attendees from across North Carolina and southeastern United States, including more than 200 Harley Davidson motorcyclists, according to Mochen.
Off-duty Ashe County Sheriff’s Office deputies will control the two-way flow of traffic on one lane along a quarter-mile stretch of N.C. 16 from Miller’s Body Shop at Doyle Bare Road and northward, just past Blue Ridge Theater, to enable safer parking and traffic control from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, assuming NCDOT approves Mochen’s road closure request and procedures.
“I think it can be done very safely, I think it can be done efficiently,” Mochen said. “Right now, I can tell you the ticket sales are really flying.”
In order to close a roadway, NCDOT must have the approval of both the local sheriff’s office and the governing body where the road is located — in this case, the board of commissioners.
Dissenting board members Rhodes and Sands, as well as ACSO Sheriff B. Phil Howell, said they were unsure whether the closure would be necessary.
Rhodes said closing down a major highway seemed like a little much to ask for one business, saying he did not feel comfortable supporting blocking off any lane on a major highway like N.C. 16, especially on a Saturday.
“We’re not looking at stopping the flow of traffic by any means,” Mochen said in response.
Sands said he still felt uncertain.
“I know the safety factor, and I know you’ll have folks out there anyway, but this is something that we’ve never done before,” Sands said.
Commissioner Larry Dix noted that restricting traffic flow would contribute to attendees’ protection and safety, compared to uncontrolled traffic at a first-time event that could bring so many visitors. Commissioner Paula Perry sided with Dix, as did Chairman Todd McNeill, making for the 3-2 vote.