Morale was high in Stephens Lake Park on Friday evening despite a growing line to enter festival grounds.
"Everyone has been really polite," Chase Barnwell, a festival contractor and EMT, said. "I keep telling them I'm sorry that this line is so long, and they're very understanding. I think they're just here to have fun."
Friday marked the start of Roots N Blues, a three-day festival that brings local and national musicians alike to Columbia.
This year, Roots N Blues is screening attendees via the CrowdPass app prior to entry. At a tent near the main entrance, festival-goers are required to present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the day they attend. People can upload their vaccination or test information in the app, which pre-screens the documents for validity and grants entrance to festival grounds.
Roots N Blues advises people not to attend if they were recently exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms. More information can be found on the Roots N Blues website.
COVID screening did slow down the entry process for concert-goers, but Barnwell said that overall, things seemed to be moving smoothly. She was originally hired as an independent contractor to provide rapid COVID-19 testing for people without proof of vaccination or a negative test. When the testing equipment failed to arrive on time, she said she was sent to answer questions and help people waiting for screening get their information pulled up.
Michael Stroud and Grace Stotler are MU students who came to Roots N Blues for the first time this year. Upon entry, both showed their vaccination cards and said the process was fairly easy.
"It was pretty seamless," Stroud said.
Stotler said that she felt OK without a mask in the more spaced out areas but that she may put one on if crowds grow throughout the evening as an added precaution.
Sherry Major, a Columbia resident, has been to almost every Roots N Blues festival. She, like others, said the COVID check-in and entrance process were quick and unproblematic.
"I feel like I crossed the finish line, getting through all the lines," Major said, clad in wristbands from each line. She waited in one line for the screening, another to enter festival grounds and a third to get a wristband that indicates she's over 21.
Melissa Langley is the Americans with Disabilities Act director for the event. Her team supplied seven to 10 golf carts that drive participants with disabilities to various locations across the grounds. She said she sees the slowed check-in process as a minor bump in the operation, but noted that attendees only have to do their COVID screening once during the weekend.
"Luckily it's a one-time deal. Once they get their verification, they get a bracelet they can wear all weekend and don't have to get back in this line," Langley said. "It's just the initial part that we're working out the kinks on."
Langley said that given the circumstances, it feels good to do something comparatively normal.
"It's just good to be outside doing something fun and light-hearted," she said.
Gates open for the festival at noon Saturday and Sunday.