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Permit problems postpone festival

Organizers hope the music festival, originally planned for Memorial Day weekend, will take place this summer.

A proposed Memorial Day weekend rock 'n' roll festival on a 3,000-acre central Pasco cattle ranch has been put on hold, at least until this summer, as promoters try to meet county permit requirements.

Promoter David Morejon, a 44-year-old Tampa restaurateur who spent two years with his partners dreaming up Woodfest 2001, said Monday that the county wants improvements made to the site, including a second access road.

"There's just no way we could get all that done on time," he said. "Now we have to build a road."

In his application filed last month, Morejon said he and partners hoped to lure 100,000 music fans to a festival dubbed Woodfest 2001. That would have made the festival the largest musical event in Pasco history.

By comparison, 1999's heavily promoted Woodstock reunion in New York drew 235,000. The first, and most successful, Farm Aid concert in 1985 attracted 80,000 fans. And the largest concert crowd ever, as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, was the 1983 US Festival, headed by Apple Computer's Steve Wozniak. It drew 670,000 fans over four days.

Morejon said he remains optimistic his Woodfest will come together, despite the setback.

Woodfest Entertainment Inc. is leasing the grounds on State Road 52 between U.S. 41 and Interstate 75 from St. Petersburg heart surgeon J. Crayton Pruitt.

Morejon said Monday he and his partners are determined to make Woodfest a reality. He said they still are eyeing a lineup of classic rock performers featuring several big names, but he said he couldn't announce the bands until a new date is established and new agreements have been made with the performers.

He said he had an impressive lineup for Memorial Day Weekend, but will have to revisit that list with the new date.

"At this time, we've had to cancel that original permit," Morejon said Monday. "We're already looking for a new date."

Morejon, who owns the Ybor City Spanish-American restaurant Latam, lives about a mile from the proposed Woodfest site. His partners, Allan Wood and James "Ace" Chapman, both have experience in the music business.

Chapman is the former manager of the groups Def Leppard and Bon Jovi and the current manager of the band Blessid Union of Souls, Morejon said.

To handle the expected fans, promoters planned to offer enough parking for at least 50,000 cars and agreed to hire about 400 sheriff's deputies and security guards and to provide 250 portable toilets.

Promoters also planned to have concessionaires to sell food, beer and wine, and camping would have been allowed.

East Pasco has held its share of musical events in the past, including the annual Livestock concert off U.S. 301 south of Zephyrhills. Last May's Livestock drew about 18,000 fans.