"It appears to be emptying out fairly quickly," Scott Johnson, director of Bedford County Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday. "The real time to tell will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- the big nights."
A state trooper said parking lots in his work area -- at the Celebration's main gate -- cleared within 15 minutes last weekend under the new plan.
BCEMA, the Shelbyville Police Department and Celebration security worked with the Tennessee Highway Patrol to develop a plan limiting directions in which departing fans can turn from the show grounds area onto Madison Street. Officials were attempting to reduce the post-show traffic tie-ups on Madison Street which traditionally have lasted from one to two hours on the show's final two nights.
The plans were first put into effect last weekend. They will be used again Thursday through Saturday nights this week, officials say.
"From what we've seen it's working better so far," THP Sgt. Monty Terry said. "Once people get used to it from how it was in years past it works pretty good. We may know a little something more Thursday night. We may have to make some minor adjustments."
Police Chief Austin Swing agrees the new plan is working well.
"The THP handles most traffic on Madison Street," Swing said. "We get side streets feeding onto Evans Street and Blue Ribbon Parkway. We help on Madison on main days, especially the final Saturday."
Terry says he's pleased with what he's seeing so far. "I cleared my gate (Gate C, the main entrance to the Celebration Grounds on Calhoun Street) and Trooper Patrick Turner cleared his gate nearby in 12 to 15 minutes and we opened up Madison Street to two-way traffic," Terry said. "It may take a little longer this weekend due to larger crowds."
Terry noted this is only his second Celebration to work traffic in recent years. He worked in Bedford County in the 1990s before assignments to other areas for 13 years. "I've been told people had been sitting in traffic for an hour and a half (in previous years)."
Signs were placed in barns and horse trainers and owners were notified and given maps of the changes, officials said.
- A gate outbound on Celebration Drive will be for left turns only or to go straight; no right turns will be allowed onto Whitthorne Street.
- Celebration Drive onto Madison Street will be left turns only or straight; no right turns will be allowed going north towards North Main Street.
- Whitthorne Street outbound at Madison Street will be left turn only or straight with no right turns.
- From C gate straight down on Jessup Street (the brick entrance to the Celebration) will be right turn only, with Calhoun closed at C gate.
- From D gate on Evans outbound to Madison, right turns only will be allowed on Madison Street and no right turn onto Evans Street.
- E gate on Evans outbound at Greenwood Avenue will be straight onto Greenwood Avenue or right turns only, with no left turn on Evans.
- F gate on Evans outbound at Bird Street will be only straight onto Bird Street or right turns only with no left turn onto Evans.