“I have to show you something. You and my wife are the only people who have seen it,” says Paul Bodor as he leads me, a stranger, into his home on West Jewell Avenue, just across the street from Overland Park Golf Course.
Bodor pulls a white banner from a long, thin rectangular box and slowly unravels it. It’s almost the length of his kitchen.
“Overland Park WELCOMES GRANDOOZY,” it says, in green, blue and red letters.
Bodor can hardly contain his excitement as he explains that the banner will hang from the second-floor balcony of his home to welcome tens of thousands of fans to Grandoozy, a three-day music festival that will also celebrate art, food and the outdoors from September 14 to 16. The festival — which is being brought to town by Superfly, the event company behind Bonnaroo and Outside Lands — will take place at the city-owned Overland Park Golf Course in southwest Denver.
Bodor acknowledges that he likes music, just not the kind that Grandoozy will highlight. In his early seventies, he’s hardly the target demographic for the festival, whose headliners include Kendrick Lamar, Florence + the Machine and Stevie Wonder (the only festival musician Bodor has heard of). Still, he and his wife, Terry Pasqua, have been the most outspoken advocates of the festival among all of their neighbors in the Overland area.
“We have adult kids,” Bodor says. “They are big music fans and they just love life. We think this is such a good thing for the city, and I think, as a neighborhood, we can best serve [it] by making it accommodating and helpful in making this happen.”
Bodor says that he and Pasqua, secretary of the Overland Park Neighborhood Association, have been to every city meeting about Grandoozy; are on a first-name basis with Superfly’s local liaison, David Ehrlich; have penned op-eds for the Denver Post touting the festival; and are even hosting a cocktail hour at their home where Grandoozy’s organizers can celebrate.
But Bodor’s excitement fades a little when he talks about the divide Grandoozy has created in his neighborhood of ten years. Though he believes Grandoozy supporters are in the majority, he acknowledges that some of his neighbors are incredibly unhappy at the possibility that thousands of loud — and possibly drunk, or worse — music fans will tromp around the small area tucked behind South Santa Fe Drive and West Evans Avenue. The divide the festival has caused is so vast that neighbors he used to consider friends no longer speak to him and Pasqua.
It’s been an uncomfortable few months — especially because the leader of the opposition, Helene Orr, is Bodor’s neighbor to the east.
“Perhaps I’m a little naive with the optimism,” Bodor says of his excitement for Grandoozy. “But as long as we look on the bright side of it, we’ll deal with whatever problems happen. If we can all stick together, year after year things can get better, because we can just work on our problems that we haven’t solved.”
Unlike Bodor’s home, which sits just a few yards off West Jewell Avenue, Orr’s home is situated toward the back of her lot, tucked behind a whimsical, overgrown English garden.
Orr has enjoyed her privacy in Overland for over twenty years and says many of her neighbors chose to live in that part of town for the same reason. Indeed, even though the downtown skyline is visible from Orr’s front yard, the neighborhood has a sort of country feel to it. People live on lots that could accommodate several homes, a rarity in a city that’s growing faster than the vines in Orr’s yard.
Before Grandoozy, the only nuisances Overland residents had to deal with were occasional visits from vagrants who camp along the Platte River and a stray golf ball or two. Now they’ll have to live with three days of near-continuous music.
Orr has been a neighborhood watchdog in one way or another for years. She led a nearly ten-year-long campaign in the ’90s that ultimately convinced the Environmental Protection Agency to remove radioactive waste from the former site of the Shattuck Chemical Company nearby. And since Grandoozy picked Overland as its home, she’s spoken against the festival in the media, peppered organizers with questions about how such a massive undertaking will impact the golf course’s ecosystem, and created an offshoot of the Overland Park Neighborhood Association that doesn’t include Grandoozy’s fans.
But just a week before the festival, Orr takes a measured approach to answering questions about Grandoozy. At times she sounds a little defeated.
“It’s here. It’s coming,” she says. “We’re girding our loins and hoping for the best.”
Orr’s major beef isn’t with Superfly — she even praises the company, and Ehrlich, for being accessible. Once our initial conversation is over, she calls back to commend Superfly for paying for motel rooms for some of the elderly people in the neighborhood who might have a hard time with all the noise.
“That was one of our concerns and one of our oppositions, and we addressed it in open meetings with [Denver] City Council, with the city, and really nobody gave a damn,” she says. “But when I brought it up with Superfly and David Ehrlich, they were responsive. That’s a good thing.”
At the end of the day, she’s not even upset at her neighbors. She’s disappointed because she feels like the City of Denver welcomed Grandoozy with open arms but didn’t really consider the opposition.
Ehrlich doesn’t deny that the festival will be an inconvenience for residents. But he says organizers have worked hard to ensure the disruptions will be minimal and controlled. Festival-goers coming in from the nearby Evans RTD station, for example, will be accompanied by police escorts. Residents in Overland will get parking passes so that they — and only they — can drive into the neighborhood. Ehrlich mans a hotline that neighbors can call to ask questions or offer comments or complaints about the festival. He says he’s fielding anywhere from ten to twenty calls a day, mostly from people who are interested in tickets. An advisory group of nearby residents organized by the city will meet after Grandoozy to discuss the festival; Ehrlich won’t be at the first meeting to give neighbors the chance to speak freely, but he says he’ll follow up with them to collect their suggestions.
And as is typical with these sorts of large festivals, nearby residents will get free or reduced-price tickets to the event. “It’s clearly going to be an inconvenience, and we thought that was important,” Ehrlich says of the tickets. “We also believe in the product. Some people are very excited and some people are really skeptical, but we’re hoping the skeptical people go and become fans.”
Orr doesn’t plan to go to the festival, nor does she plan to skip town that weekend. She says if the festival continues to return to Overland, she’d consider selling her home.
But both she and Bodor note that Grandoozy didn’t start the changes in the neighborhood. Gentrification, rising housing costs and related problems that seem to be impacting every corner of Denver have changed Overland over the years. A house down the street from Orr and Bodor on Jewell recently sold for an “ungodly” amount of money and will be razed to make room for a duplex...or a triplex, or something like that, Bodor says. To him, change is inevitable, so why not welcome it with open arms and a cocktail party?
Bodor and Pasqua plan to attend Grandoozy, and Bodor even gave Pasqua’s mother the option of listening from the balcony. The stage that will host Stevie Wonder is about a hundred yards from their home.
“I told her, ‘You can sit on the balcony and listen to Stevie Wonder!’ and she said no — she wanted to see him in person!”
Grandoozy, September 14 to 16, Overland Park Golf Course, $99-$674.50.