INDIO (CNS) - The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival begins today, with thousands of visitors converging in the desert for the annual extravaganza that put the City of Festivals on the map.
Gates at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio open at 11 a.m. today, with The Weeknd set to headline opening day. The other headliners for the two- weekend festival are Beyonce and Eminem, making it the first year with no rock- related performers among the main acts.
The main acts are all first-time Coachella headliners.
Eminem previously appeared as a guest with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in 2012; and The Weeknd previously appeared in 2012 and 2015. Beyonce was initially slated to perform last year, but had to bow out after becoming pregnant with twins. She was replaced by Lady Gaga.
The lineup will be vast and varied as usual, with more than 150 acts across both festival weekends.
Those unable to make it in person can still view select acts during Weekend One exclusively on Coachella's livestream at https://www.youtube.com/user/coachella . Users can view the performances on four different feeds, including a virtual reality feed covering the Main Stage, Sahara Tent and festival grounds.
Car and tent campers began claiming their spots Thursday. The usual influx of visitors, numbering in the tens of thousands, is expected to clog up local roadways today.
Police say the following roads will be designated as ``primary access routes'' for the festivals, and will be ``severely impacted'' during both festival weekends:
-- Jefferson Street, from Interstate 10 to Avenue 52;
-- Washington Street, from Interstate 10 to Avenue 52;
-- Monroe Street, from Interstate 10 to Avenue 52;
-- Highway 111 at Jefferson Street;
-- Highway 111 at Monroe Street;
-- eastbound Interstate 10 exit at Jefferson Street;
-- eastbound Interstate 10 exit at Monroe Street; and
-- eastbound Interstate 10 exit at Washington Street.
Road closures include:
-- Avenue 49, between Hjorth Street and Monroe Street;
-- Avenue 50, between Madison Street and Jackson Street;
-- Hjorth Street, between Avenue 49 and Avenue 50; and
-- Madison Street, between Avenue 49 and Avenue 52.
Those looking to avoid driving altogether can be dropped off by ride- hauling services and taxis at the southwest corner of Avenue 49 and Monroe Street, or dropped off and picked up by friends and family at the northeast corner of Avenue 52 and Madison Street.
Heavy traffic delays are also expected on eastbound Interstate 10 between Banning and Indio starting today.
Drivers are also advised to be prepared for heavy traffic on Sunday evening and Monday after each festival weekend, with around 40,000 campers expected to depart from the Empire Polo Grounds, filling up surface streets and westbound Interstate 10.
To help make traffic smoother within the city, a yearlong road project widening Highway 111 in Indio has been suspended until the festival season wraps up April 30.
In addition to music and its usual collection of massive art displays, Coachella will feature a full slate of food options, including a brand-new ``Indio Central Market'' patterned after the iconic Grand Central Market in Los Angeles and featuring more than 15 restaurants from across the country. Festival attendees can also opt for fare from three ``pop-up'' restaurants and more than 100 food vendors, amply covering a wide variety of palettes and dietary restrictions.
The ``Outstanding in the Field'' outdoor dining experience will return, featuring a four-course family style meal for $225.
New enhanced security measures will be in effect this year, with the Indio Police Department rolling out drones to monitor crowds and traffic, as well as tourniquets to be carried by officers posted at the festival.
The new security measures come after a spate of cell phone thefts during last year's festival, which led to the arrests of around 10 suspects. Some have also questioned whether recent mass shootings like the Route 91 Harvest music festival tragedy in Las Vegas have impacted local law enforcement's approach to festival security.
Indio police Sgt. Daniel Marshall said the department engages in preparations for ``major incidents'' each year prior to the festival, and that recent major shootings have not drastically affected the department's response to the annual event.
``We always train for those situations. We have to prepare,'' Marshall said.
The full brunt of a typical Coachella Valley heat wave was not expected to impact the festival this weekend, and attendees may also just escape a particularly windy spell, during which strong gusts caused power outages and road closures in areas of the Coachella Valley.
Windy conditions were expected to subside following a National Weather Service high wind warning issued this week for the Coachella Valley
Visit www.coachella.com for festival maps, set times, and more.