Good job, Fresno. Be proud of yourself.
The biggest music festival this city has ever hosted just concluded its two-day run, and you know what? We survived. Even more than that, we enjoyed and we behaved. And those of us impacted by noise and traffic didn't complain all that much.
Turns out all the consternation and hand-wringing over Grizzly Fest moving from downtown to Woodward Park – not to mention City Councilman Garry Bredefeld's feeble attempt to prevent that from happening – was just wasted breath.
Thousands of locals and visitors came out to the northern, more affluent and (let's be honest) whiter part of Fresno to see performances by more than 30 music acts ranging from hip-hop to gothic dance to psychedelic Latin soul. They came out to eat at food trucks, ride a Ferris wheel and pose for pics they'll share on Instagram. They came out to drink beer and smoke marijuana. Lots and lots of it, judging by the odor.
You know what they didn't come out to do? Wreak havoc. Trash the park with litter and graffiti. Raid and plunder surrounding neighborhoods.
Those sorts of fears held less water than a thimble.
"People aren't just well-behaved, they're appreciative of the city of Fresno for putting this on," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told me after escorting a woman from out of town, who was lost, in the direction of the Uber and Lyft pick-up area.
I did not have tickets for Grizzly Fest but was curious. So Saturday night I got on my bike and rode across town to see what the fuss was about. Pedaling along the Sugar Pine Trail, I began to hear the bass reverb while crossing Cedar Avenue. The first sign of police presence came in the form of a lone motorcycle cop parked near the corner of Cole Avenue and Audubon Drive, which was closed to traffic west of Friant Road.
The festival occupied the southwest corner of Woodward Park not far from the Audubon Drive entrance. Of the three separate stages, the two largest both faced east.
Even though thousands of citizens with no interest in hip-hop undoubtedly heard the thumping from their backyards or even living rooms, very few were troubled enough to call the police.
Dyer told me dispatchers received five noise complaint and one parking complaint calls Friday and none of either kind Saturday, when headliner Snoop Dogg concluded the proceedings at 11:27 p.m.
Like I said earlier: Good job, Fresno. That showed some restraint.
Also showing restraint were the police, who could have cited any number of people for smoking marijuana in public, including Snoop Dogg by the looks of things. Despite the passage of Proposition 64, public consumption remains illegal and comes with a $100 fine.
Dyer, however, instructed his officers not to enforce that. Which was a welcome change from some of the department's recent marijuana enforcement practices.
In fact, Fresno police did not make any arrests during the two-day festival. The only citation issued, according to Dyer, was by an Alcohol Beverage Control officer to a bartender for selling alcohol to a 20-year-old. Both were cited and released.
While hanging around outside the fences, I also spoke briefly to Mayor Lee Brand and members of his staff and spotted Councilmembers Esmeralda Soria and Paul Caprioglio. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Even Bredefeld, who was seen Friday in Brand's company, showed a sense of humor on Twitter over jokes at his expense.
Most of the credit goes to promoter Aren Hekimian, who was made to jump through a gantlet of political and logistical hoops before getting the go-ahead to move the event out of Chukchansi Park. Some of these hoops were just the normal, messy give and take of democracy. Others, though, were born out of stereotypes and phantom fears. All of which were proven false.
Based on this year's success (more than 18,000 attended over two days), Grizzly Fest will be back next year with even bigger and better acts. And it should return to Woodward Park, which proved to be a great venue for a music festival.
Every once in a while something happens to remind us Fresno is not some small town but California's fifth-largest city. And often the biggest stumbling block preventing us from reaching that potential is our own small-town thinking.
See, we can have nice things.