This year, Germany's biggest Music Festival won't be happening on the Nürburgring race track, but on Mendig's airfield. What is the small town in the Eifel doing to prepare for 90,000 music fans? Let's have a look.
Studded belts grace the shop windows, the supermarket is well stocked with beer, canned ravioli and barbecue sausages, and the local pharmacy has put together a "survival package". The not quite 9,000 residents of Mendig are bracing themselves to receive a good 90,000 music fans, as they converge on Mendig’s decommissioned military airfield for the "Rock am Ring" in a few days‘ time. But even now, hardly anyone here seems to have a clear idea of exactly what is involved in having one of the country’s largest music festivals right on their doorstep.
The first fans are on their way
Town mayor Hans-Peter Ammeldescribed landing the event as a "really big stroke of luck". The first 40,000 guests are expected in this town in Rhineland-Palatinate on Wednesday, June 3rd, and the next 40,000 the day after, with the stragglers trickling in on Friday. That in effect will balloon Mendig’s population ten times over, so neighboring towns and villages are sending in reinforcements, including some 300 German Red Cross helpers and around police officers, according to Ammel.
Retailers in Festival Fever
The town is anticipating a nice economic boost from hosting the extravaganza. A consulting firm hired to run the numbers projected more than 2.8 million euros in returns for the community resulting from the event.
Malte Tack, general manager of the VulkanBrewery, has stepped up production of canned suds. The concession for the festival grounds was too steep for him, so he joined forces with other Mendig retailers to set up shop on the empty land next to the airfield. "There are lots of people who don’t have tickets but want to get a whiff of festival atmosphere. And they can hear all the music from where we are."
The retailers are stocking up, hiring extra help and coming out with special offers for the festival-goers. A local supermarket swiftly opened up a temporary branch at the airfield with a range of goods tailored to party-goers‘ needs. Even the optician Ulrich Rawerthas comes up with inventive marketing strategies for his frames bearing the Rock logo. And tobacconist Franz-Josef Blum is looking forward to a smoking weekend of sales. He can’t remember ever seeing anything like the festival in this area.
Mega-partyzone in the back country
Mendig’s upcoming experience may draw comparisons with Wacken, a village in Schleswig-Holstein that welcomes tens of thousands of fans every year for the world’s biggest Heavy Metal festival. But then, "Wacken’s festival has grown over the years, and the retailers have grown with it", explains the tobacconist. But Mendig is getting an established event plunked down on its doorstep. "From zero to one hundred", as Mayor Ammel put it.
The preparations began in 2014 with the application to host the "Rock am Ring". "The municipal administration staff had to knuckle down for a year to work out all the details". They collaborated with the police, security services and various authorities just to find room for an anticipated 30,000 cars, including access roads. They drafted security concepts and tried to lure skylarks away from the airfield. Compared to the "Rock am Ring", all the events held in the area up to now were just "peanuts" says Sabine Schmickler at her filling station. She can’t even be sure that she’ll sleep at all this weekend. "Nobody knows what’s in store", she says. A few meters away sits Peter Netten in his taxi on the Market Square. "This is virgin territory for us".
Mayor Amme lwon’t be looking for things to return to normal until next Tuesday. But then, the day after the festival is the day before the next festival. Organizer Marek Lieberberg has indicated he "will be thinking and staying long-term."