THE NEXT FEST: Milt Petty hopes to...

THE NEXT FEST: Milt Petty hopes to become living proof of the notion that the private sector can get the job done better than a governmental entity.

He’s seen it from the other side: In his 1984-87 stint in the city of Los Angeles’ General Services Department he oversaw talent acquisition and promotions for the controversy-plagued downtown L.A. Street Scene festivals. The 1987 Street Scene was canceled under a cloud of financial problems and violence; the 1986 festival was marred by violence--including a fatal shooting--and the administrative scandal surrounding Petty’s then-boss, Sylvia Cunliffe.

Now Petty’s a civilian. He and his partner Carl Kunder head Southern California Festivals, which is promoting next weekend’s two-day Country Fest ’88 at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area.


“We want to be the leading festival producers in Southern California,” Petty said. “Our goals are to show we could have done (the festivals) properly in the first place. But we didn’t hold the authority (to organize the Street Scenes efficiently) because of the problems of working within the context of the city.”

The acts scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday event range from current country stars like Eddie Rabbitt and Rosanne Cash to such historical figures as Jerry Lee Lewis and Kitty Wells and younger, more rock-oriented up-and-comers like Dave Alvin and Foster & Lloyd. Petty expects up to 75,000 people each day for Country Fest ’88, and said that the county-run Irwindale facility could actually handle twice as many.

Petty said the lessons he learned from his work with the city, where he also developed Beach Scene and last summer’s Country Scene at the Hansen Dam Recreation Area, should serve him well in his new venture.

“Festivals need to be entirely enclosed so you can do a can, bottle and weapons search and keep out undesirables,” he said. “And you need to keep a firm grip on alcohol and do the kind of production that keeps acts on schedule. The Country Scene last year fit the criteria, because we were able to organize without much interference from politicians or bureaucrats.”