Skies clear as New York's Gov Ball music fest kicks off
By ANGELA WEISSMaggy DONALDSON,2023-06-09
New York's Governors Ball kicked off Friday under clearer skies after days of wildfire-induced noxious smog blanketed the city and threatened to derail the annual music festival.
As of Wednesday afternoon air quality in New York was clocking in as the worst in the world, according to an international monitor, as levels of pollution hung at hazardous levels well into the night.
Even as the apocalyptic skies gave residents the illusion of living in a sepia filter, festival organizers took a wait-and-see approach in consultation with local officials.
"We are a go," they announced by Thursday evening, as the smoke began to dissipate due to the shifting direction of the winds over the Canadian province of Quebec, where the fires are raging.
It was welcome news for thousands of revelers planning to attend the festival in New York's Queens borough, among them Simrya Anand who traveled from Boston to see artists including headliners Lizzo, Odesza and Kendrick Lamar.
"I was really worried about the weather," the 20-year-old told AFP. "I was thinking about, like, wearing a mask here but thankfully it looks like things have cleared up."
"But I wasn't considering not coming," she added with a smile.
Hamza Hussein, 25, just wrapped a graduate degree at New York University and was looking forward to attending his first Gov Ball ever, in particular the set of famed rapper Pusha T.
He and his friend were concerned about the potentially "poisonous" air -- but "we predicted it was going to go on because it's really hard to rebook all these artists."
- Breathing easy -
By Friday evening as Diplo took the stage, the air quality level had dropped to a refreshing 38 on the 500-point scale -- earlier in the week it had jumped past a dangerous 400 -- and festival-goers along with artists were able to breathe easy once more.
It was a relief for New Yorkers Andy and Bonnie Goolcharan, both in their early 50s, who said they had been ready to skip.
"We weren't going to come," Andy Goolcharan told AFP. "We thought it would be canceled... but it worked out."
And unlike many of their fellow attendees in their 20s, the couple said if both the smog and the festival had persisted, they would have stayed home.
More than 111 million people in the United States had been under air quality alerts as of Thursday due to the fires. The wildfire smoke from Canada was also detected several thousand miles away in Norway.
The mayors of New York, Montreal, Toronto, Washington and Philadelphia issued a joint statement Friday saying "this alarming episode serves as a stark reminder of the harmful impacts that the climate crisis is having on cities around the world.
The three-day Governors Ball music festival is set to continue through Sunday, and along with the headliners will feature Lil Nas X, Haim, Lil Uzi Vert, Rina Sawayama, Omar Apollo and Ice Spice.