HOULTON — Outside of the Limestone area, most parts of Aroostook County were calm over the weekend, as Phish phans settled in for the weekend concert at the Loring Commerce Centre.
It was the calm before the storm, however, and police and business owners were gearing up for what is expected to be a major crush of traffic heading south beginning in the wee morning hours today after the concert’s 1 a.m. conclusion.
More than 60,000 fans were on hand Saturday, with thousands more shelling out $38 for the show Sunday.
As of Sunday noon, state police reported more than 140 summonses issued to concert-goers since Thursday. Two stabbings were reported at the concert site — neither was life-threatening. No one had been charged in the stabbings as of Sunday.
Departing traffic was expected to bottleneck today in Mars Hill where Routes 1 and 1A merge, and again in Houlton where only a single on-ramp is available to handle cars leaving Route 1 to get onto Interstate 95.
Some of that traffic was expected to spill over onto Routes 2, 2A and 11 as fans sought shortcuts around the logjams of cars that dominated traffic Friday.
Police planned to handle the traffic in much the same way they did Friday, with state, county and local law enforcement officers on roving patrols and at key intersections to keep cars moving.
“We want to get it out of here as fast and as safely as we can,” a dispatcher at Maine State Police Troop F in Houlton said Saturday.
The expected traffic tie-up was good news for students in SAD 29. School was to begin today, but Friday’s traffic prompted officials to delay the opening until Tuesday.
There are two district elementary schools along Route 1 in Littleton and Monticello. Traffic through both towns was reduced to a crawl, if not a standstill, most of Friday.
Many secondary-level students in those towns, as well as in Houlton, also are transported by bus along Route 1 to the high school in Houlton.
Superintendent of Schools David Wiggin said today will be a teacher workshop instead. The students’ extra day of vacation will be made up sometime before the potato harvest recess, which will begin Sept. 22, he said.
Businesses also were preparing for a repeat performance of Friday’s rush.
While shelves at stores along the travel routes were at times almost stripped clean Friday, they were well-stocked again by Saturday morning. Many merchants reported having to restock shelves several times Friday to keep up with the demand for beer, soda and snack foods.
Ice supplies in Houlton reportedly were cleaned out.
“We’re expecting to be hit pretty hard on Monday, which will be nice,” said April Doane, assistant manager at the DOC’s Place convenience store and gasoline station on Route 1 in Houlton.
“There were thousands and thousands of cars and a lot of people,” she said about Friday’s crunch. “We had a lot of good sales. It was unbelievable.”
Despite the massive influx of cars, relatively few accidents were reported. As of noon Sunday, there had been only 10 accidents, six of which involved personal injury. None of the injuries was serious.
State police were investigating the two stabbings. A dispatcher at Houlton said one man suffered a superficial wound, while in the second case a man was hospitalized with a nonlife-threatening injury.
State police recorded 143 summonses issued between Thursday and Sunday afternoon as a result of highway and aircraft patrols. There were 14 other Phish-related summonses issued, the nature of which was unavailable.
As things settled down over the weekend, stories were abundant from local folks who were entertained by the sheer numbers and antics of the fans.
There were unconfirmed reports that some local girls standing on overpasses along Interstate 95 were flashing more than the peace sign.
Some people told of seeing none-too-shy fans who had nowhere private to go, standing naked next to cars in parking lots as they switched into fresher garments.
Others said it was not uncommon to see fans filling up their car tanks with gasoline and themselves with beer at the same time at local filling stations.
Complaints were rare and most people said they were glad to see the travelers and hoped everything worked out well.
“It’s nice to see traffic on the roads,” said one man at a service station putting air in his son’s bicycle tire.
Traffic Sunday morning was reported moderately heavy in Limestone, but it was quiet in Caribou and Fort Fairfield, to the west and south, respectively.
“It’s normal,” said a dispatcher at the Fort Fairfield Police Department.