Pop Festival Round Two

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Pop Festival Round Two:

Community input more positive at second meeting

The second community input meeting to gather feedback on a proposed Miami Beach Pop Festival the weekend after Art Basel went better than the first. After a mixed response at a morning meeting last week, the City added an evening meeting to test the waters further.

As they did at the earlier meeting, the event’s organizers emphasized their experience in promoting music festivals and events on the sand. Bruce Orosz of ACT Productions noted the group’s success with the Miami Beach Centennial Celebration in 2015. “We had 83 different activities, 100 hours of programming on the sand in the same footprint.”
The proposed location is from 5th to 10th Streets on the beach, utilizing the SCOPE Art Fair tent that is placed on the site for Art Basel. Attendance is projected to be 35,000 per day for a three-day event. The City doesn’t usually seek community feedback for special event permits, but Miami Beach Director of Tourism, Culture, and Economic Development, Eva Silverstein said because this is such a high impact event coming on the heels of Art Basel, another high impact event, the City wanted to hear the community’s thoughts before making a decision.
At the first community meeting, the organizers faced stiff opposition from the local beach volleyball community for their proposed use of the volleyball area, citing debris left behind after other events which resulted in injuries. For nearly a year, the City has had a moratorium on events in the area and players were upset that the City might be backing away from that commitment. Silverstein reiterated that the City Manager had not rescinded the policy. Ultimately, the Festival’s organizers agreed not to pursue use of the volleyball court or the Muscle Beach fitness area.
Orosz also emphasized the producers’ commitment to both the environment and the community. “We are looking to improve the landscape, the economic vibrancy” of the City, he said. By focusing on a family-friendly event, they hope to “create a fantastic experience for this City” while also supporting a cause each year.
When Paul Peck and Steve Sybesma, the founders of the Okeechobee Music Festival, finished their presentation on the Miami Beach Pop Festival proposal at the first meeting they were met with some tense questions and comments. This time, the audience applauded.
There were still residents who challenged them on traffic, noise, and clean up issues, but this audience also included business and hospitality industry representatives who focused on the economic benefit to the City and local businesses.
Peck said the Festival will have public transportation options including shuttle buses and a parking plan. Add to that the City’s free trolley, rideshare, and hotel guests walking to events and, Peck said, the traffic impact would be minimal.
When that didn’t satisfy one resident, Sybesma said, “This city has hosted numerous events that have done 35,000 people per day. This City is capable of that.” He noted, “People don’t all go to a show at one time. The crowd is spread out.”
Orosz added, traffic was down during Art Basel this year. “The trolley, Lyft and Uber reduced the stress on the roads.”
While the organizers hope the event becomes an annual one, Sybemsa said they are only seeking a one-year permit so they can “prove we can do this festival correctly”.  Orosz added, “If we don’t all collectively do a great job, I’m sure we won’t be invited back.”
Chris Gordon, a concert photographer said “Okeechobee was one of the best run festivals I’ve ever experienced.” He said the crowd was diverse and “Traffic wasn’t that bad.” Gordon noted the Surfrider Foundation and local environmental group volunteercleanup.org both support the Miami Beach Festival. “These are the people that really understand our environment,” he said. “We want to protect what we have and I can tell you from my experience, that’s not an issue” with the organizers’ events.
Peck told the audience, “I can’t stress enough how much the cleanup of the beach is going to be a priority for us.”
Jerry Libbin, President of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce said, if the community wants the Festival, “The Chamber of Commerce will work to help produce the cultural aspect” of it. He said the Chamber had already approached nine consulates in the area about doing an international cultural event. Libbin said the Chamber would “incorporate the concept” into the Festival, if approved.
The organizers also emphasized their commitment to local students by giving them opportunities to participate in the event and said they have had discussions with Miami Beach High School to showcase student talent.
Brian Wilkins, whose management company works with the University of Miami Frost School of Music to put on events said, “These guys gave our students the opportunity of a lifetime” showing them what it's like to be professional artists. “These guys couldn’t have been better to work with. It’s still having an impact,” he said.
The post-it notes for audience comments and the four “idea boards” were the same as the first meeting, however this time the “How could this be a good idea for Miami Beach” comments far outweighed the negative with thoughts ranging from “good exposure” for the City, economic and business opportunities, promote diversity, and further promote Miami Beach as a cultural destination.
"I would like to see"… included notes that read “this event come to life”, “this event happen”, “more events like this”, along with a few comments about a good traffic plan, no plastic straws, and “make it as eco friendly as possible”.
There were only seven notes on the Negatives/Any challenges or concerns board … four about protecting the environment / cleaning up after, two on traffic issues, and one related to noise.
Regarding how the event could give back to the community in a meaningful way, most of the comments related to contributing to environmental education and clean up.
The volleyball crowd was in attendance again but seemed satisfied with the promise not to use the area.
Next step is to meet with the South of Fifth Neighborhood Association (SOFNA). Clare McCord, the group’s president, told the organizers she hoped to meet with them very soon.
Photo: Shutterstock.com

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