NAPA, Calif. - Downtown Napa reverberated with the sound of rock music Friday night as BottleRock re-emerged.
The pandemic-delayed festival opened to pent-up demand and new COVID-19 restrictions.
"It feels great, we're excited to come out, have fun, and hear all these hot bands," said fans Jamie Glover & Sherly Vallot, on their way in for the evening line-up.
Concert-goers must show proof of vaccination or show a negative COVID-19 test, not more than 3 days old.
"I got up here and didn't realize I was going to need vaccination and all that kind of stuff," said Steven Woodcock of Oakley, who arrived with a ticket but nothing else.
To keep fans from getting shut-out, a 15 minute rapid test is offered for $89 outside the Napa Expo gates.
"I've been going to this concert every year and last year was a bummer to have it canceled," said Woodcock, after swirling a long swab up his nostrils and handing it to a technician.
"I wanted to get up here and see it and realized we have to have these tests."
He got in, but a few others did not, out of about 1,000 tests given Friday.
"Maybe two or three people and the protocol is we give them a mask, we ask them to leave and we explain they need to speak to their doctor and the people they came with," said David Shor, founder of World Back to Work, the testing company that contracts with various venues.
"At a bare minimum, making sure someone is vaccinated or has a recent test is about as good as you can get in crowds this size," said Shor.
"The 3-day event is the Bay Area's largest since the pandemic, with about 40,000 daily spectators roaming among 5 stages.
Billed as a music, wine, food and brew festival, BottleRock sold-out swiftly, but now has some passes available on its ticket exchange- lowest price: $199 for a one-day general admission.
"BottleRock is always a great event for us, great crowds," said Craig Smith, Executive Director of the Downtown Napa Association.
Hotels and restaurants are booked, stores and sidewalks are bustling, and the hospitality industry could not be happier to see BottleRock return after its one-year hiatus.
"Well there's no doubt last year was the toughest year any of us will ever experience," said Smith, "but now we're on pace to have a better year than even 2019."
When the entertainment ends each night at 10pm, crowds swarm Napa nightclubs and eateries, but Smith notes, they spend their days mostly at the concert-grounds.
"So if you're a local and you still want to come downtown and shop, or you're a visitor and you want to come downtown, you can."
Headliners include Guns and Roses and Foo Fighters.
Opening night hit a snag with the late cancellation of country artist Chris Stapleton, who cited a non-Covid illness.
Stapleton had been a replacement for Stevie Nicks, who dropped out earlier due to concerns about rising coronavirus cases.
Ultimately, the show went on- with "The Highwaywomen" taking the main stage.
Fans took the adjustments in stride, grateful the good times are back.
"I'm impressed and I'm proud of Napa, we did a good job," said local fan Jason Elkin.
"We found a way to be safe and have fun at the same time."