Pop Festival Gets Mixed Response

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Pop Festival Gets Mixed Response:

second community input meeting planned

Producers of a proposed Miami Beach Pop Festival met the community this week to discuss their ideas for an annual three-day, family friendly event the week after Art Basel. They were met with a mixed response from those in attendance at the morning meeting. In order to gather more input, the City has organized a second community meeting next week, this time in the evening.
The proposed footprint for the event is from 5th to 10th Streets on the beach, utilizing the SCOPE Art Fair tent that is placed on the site for Art Basel. City Director of Tourism, Culture, and Economic Development, Eva Silverstein said organizers project 35,000 attendees per day for three days. For such high impact events, she said the City is placing an emphasis on community givebacks such as free tickets for seniors, tours and exhibits for students, among other ideas. She said the City wanted community feedback before making a decision on approving the festival.
The four event producers then took to the floor emphasizing their local roots. Don Lockerbie said, “Three of four of us are residents of Miami Beach and we work here so we’re not outsiders.” The team also emphasized their experience in organizing large music and sports events as well as a number of beach events.
Paul Peck was involved in the launch of Bonaroo and Outside Lands. Together with Steve Sybesma, he co-founded the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. Sybesma has produced more than 6,500 concerts in his career. Lockerbie has produced six Olympic games, 3 FIFA World Cups and “many” beach sports events.
“We live here and we really want this to be an amazing event that benefits the community,” Lockerbie said.
Bruce Orosz, a Miami Beach resident for 30 years, produced the City’s Centennial activities in 2015. “When we do a beach event, we respect the beach. We respect the community,” he said.
Peck then described the organizers’ vision for “a cultural celebration” focused on music, food, and art where people from different backgrounds can have a “shared cultural experience [that] celebrates the flavor of Miami Beach”. The goal is a diverse family-friendly event that “grandparents can share with grandchildren”. A variety of music is planned including rock, pop, classic rock, jazz, country, Latin, and reggae. The many different genres, Peck said, “crystalizes the concept of cultural diversity”. The team also plans to feature local produce, chefs, and artists.
Sybesma emphasized the event will be privately funded and projected a significant economic benefit to the City from thousands of hotel room nights during a traditionally slow period. The 2018 event is proposed for Friday, December 14 through Sunday, December 16.
He said the organizers want to minimize the impact on residents and will keep the beach open to the public until two days before and after the event. To reduce the traffic impact, they will incentivize parking outside the city and encourage the use of public transportation, something he said they did well for the Centennial.
“We are very conscious of the environmental stewardship of all our events,” Sybesma said. “The beach is left with no trace and it’s better than when we came.” The producers said they will work with the Surfrider Foundation and VolunteerCleanup.org “to establish guidelines and procedures to ensure environmental responsibility”.
Sybesma said the timing for the beach event puts it “outside of turtle and hurricane seasons and before peak tourist season”.
As part of its responsibility to the community, he said the organizers intend to provide discounts for residents and free allotments of tickets for seniors. In addition, they are working on an educational component with Beach High. Peck said, “Music education is something we’re very passionate about. We really want to share our platform with these gifted young kids.”
When it was time for questions and comments, two themes emerged: event fatigue and concerns around the proposed use of the beach volleyball courts. Silverstein noted the City Manager had placed a moratorium on events for the volleyball area eight months prior and said, “The manager has not changed the rules.”
Orosz said the event is “meant to enhance the community, not take away from anybody” and he offered to sit down together to collaborate with the volleyball community. “We’re not here to minimize it, we’re here to make it part of our event.”
Noting the festival is “about art, music, food, culture,” he added, “Culture is beach volleyball so let’s get together and find the right location.”
Sybesma described the potential stage set-ups: one small stage in the SCOPE tent, a main stage on the south side of the site facing north, and a small stage in Lummus Park at the 7th-8th Street entrance. While “nothing is set in stone on the site plan,” Sybesma said, “We’d like to include the beach volleyball area and we’d like to work with you on a plan that is acceptable.”
Elizabeth Hartling, one of the volleyball players said, “We do support the event. We understand what you’re trying to do. We love the community as much as you.” But, she said, the debris that has been left from events in the past created a dangerous situation for players who move about and often dive into the sand.
Orosz responded, “Let’s find a solution. It’s all about a win for everybody.”
The attendees were then asked to put thoughts on Post-it notes on four boards: How could this be a good idea for Miami Beach? What are the negatives / challenges or concerns you have? I would like to see… And community giveback ideas.
The notes on the “how could this be a good idea” board were sparse but focused on the positive economic impact and a family-friendly activation of Ocean Drive. Litter and event fatigue were the top negatives cited. In the “I would like to see…” category, clean up crews, no plastic or plastic straws, and more culture / less party atmosphere were posted. With regard to community givebacks, attendees wanted to see discounts for residents and the collaboration with the local music programs mentioned by the organizers. One note said “skip the area from 7th to 9th” which is where the volleyball courts are.
After the group exercise, a member of the volleyball group held up large photos of debris and injuries suffered by players. “All we’re asking is stay away. The City promised us” there wouldn’t be any more events on the courts. “Now we’re back here,” he said.
Lockerbie responded. “We’d like people to do their homework … The pictures are gruesome. I don’t think that was from 2015,” referring to the Centennial event. In fact, organizers said they cleaned up before the Centennial beach concert as well as after.
The final word went to Miami Beach resident Lyle Stern who said, “I love that we have the opportunity to have this event in our community. The broader picture is it’s great for our community and citizens.”
Following the meeting, the event organizers, Silverstein, and members of the volleyball community scheduled a meeting for Friday to try to find an amenable solution.
Later, the City announced a second community input meeting for Tuesday, Feb 13, 6 pm in Commission Chambers, City Hall.

Photo: Shutterstock.com

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