Take warning, fans: You'll feel the heat

August 04, 2007|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,Sun reporter

One hundred degrees, 60,000 people and 10 hours of live outdoor music could be enough to wilt even the hardiest concertgoer.

Today's Virgin Festival at Pimlico Race Course comes on one of the hottest days of the year for Baltimore. But overheated fans will have a number of ways to cool off. Misting stations and showers will be available on site, and unlike last year, the air-conditioned Pimlico grandstand will be open to festivalgoers who need to relax in climate-controlled comfort.

They may need it. National Weather Service meteorologist Jim DeCarufel described the forecast as "hot and humid and sticky, with highs around 100 downtown and mid-90s at the airport - like you'll be able to tell the difference."

At the Virgin Fest, four giant domes have been set up to provide shade. They are equipped with powerful fans. And one of the domes has a handful of showers for those who really need to cool down. "You put your head under and it feels great," said Audrey Schaefer of concert producer IMP.

Misting stations are scattered throughout the grounds, and 40 "angels" will roam the site with hand-held misters. Also, bamboo fans will be distributed for free.

Attendees can take two unopened bottles of water into the festival. (The bottles must be sealed. Otherwise, organizers fear some less-hydrating substances may make their way into the bottles. Imagine!) Water stations have been set up where fans can refill bottles for free.

"We're hoping people take care of themselves as best they can and stay hydrated," Schaefer said. But for those who need extra help, medics will be on site.

The precautions are similar to, if not more advanced than, heat-beating measures taken at other outdoor venues. During hot afternoon baseball games, for instance, the Orioles give out cups of ice and set up misting stations.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein declared a Code Red Heat Alert for today, which means emergency cooling centers will be open around the city.

Sharfstein said it was critical for concertgoers to drink plenty of water - even past the point that they no longer feel thirsty - and to be careful with alcohol, which dehydrates. Health officials also advise wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing and staying in the shade when possible.

"People need to take it very seriously because you don't want to get so carried away with the music that suddenly you develop headaches and heat exhaustion," Sharfstein said. "Those can not only ruin your concert-going experience, but also potentially be threatening."

Fans at the Virgin Fest today may get a shower whether they want one or not. The forecast calls for isolated thunderstorms this afternoon and evening.

"Where they pop up, it's impossible to tell right now," said DeCarufel of the National Weather Service. "But it's definitely going to be a warm one."

Those who want to avoid getting too hot should ask their friends and fellow fans to heed the advice of festival headliner the Police: Don't stand so close to me.

stephen.kiehl@baltsun.com

STAY COOL

To stay safe and as cool as possible, the Baltimore Health Department recommends:

Drink plenty of water or juice.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Wipe skin with cool water as needed.

Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing.

Reduce outside activities.

Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including confusion, nausea and light-headedness.

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