Festival seeks an extension
Festival Network, promoters of the scheduled August 10 concert featuring the Boston Pops in Ocean Park, returned to town officials Tuesday with a request to extend the event to a second evening. The promoters want to add a performance on Monday, August 11, by an unnamed artist who cannot perform on the original date.
At the Oak Bluffs selectmen's meeting on Tuesday, the request triggered pointed criticism of Festival Networks by the Island non-profit organizations included in the fundraising aspect of the event. There are also concerns that it will conflict with the primary fundraising event for Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, scheduled for the same Monday evening.
While they say they have approached the fundraising process optimistically, and still want to make it a success, the nonprofit groups are clearly frustrated.
"The communication has been terrible," said Christine Todd, capital campaign director for the YMCA. "We don't feel like it's a partnership at all. We have encouraged each other to stay with this, but we've had really no support from Festival Network.
Three local charities, the Martha's Vineyard YMCA, Vineyard House, and the Friends of Oak Bluffs were designated to participate in fundraising for the event, billed as the Martha's Vineyard Festival. According to the Festival Network proposal, the three organizations would each purchase 300 to 350 reserved location tickets at face value. The groups would add premium services such as a reception or meal, and sell the seats at a higher price, keeping the difference for their charity.
"We still don't have a ticket price. We have no way to market the tickets," said Ms. Todd. "The big superstar has been dangled in front of us for months now." Though the face value ticket price for the premium seating is not final, and will depend substantially on the musical acts appearing, an estimated price of $135 has been floated by Festival Network in meetings with local charities. General admission tickets for the Pops concert last year, which also featured performances by singer Natalie Cole and saxophonist Branford Marsalis, were $45, with a $5.50 ticket surcharge.
Rob Scherer, representing Festival Network, said he understands and shares some of the frustration.
"If this isn't good for the people involved, we don't want to do it," said Mr. Scherer. "It's not like walking into a supermarket and picking something off the shelf. Very rarely does it all line up. The hardest job in the entertainment business is securing talent."
Mr. Scherer indicated at least five musical acts, including the Boston Pops, are confirmed to appear on the original Sunday date, but he would not reveal the acts, except to confirm that the Boston Pops will again headline the concert.
Extending the festival to Monday night would create a conflict with the Summer Soiree, an annual fundraising event for the Hospice of Martha's Vineyard. For many years, the hospice event has fit into the busy summer fundraising season on the second Monday evening in August. At the Tuesday meeting, nonprofit executives expressed concern about hurting the hospice fundraising effort, as well as the availability of volunteers who may work for several organizations.
"It would be an extreme loss for Hospice," said Terre Young, executive director. "We've thrown around lots of creative ways we might dovetail this, but it's very complicated." She added that the organization explored changing the date of its annual event, but that proved impossible.
Local charitable organizations are in a delicate spot with the Festival Network proposal. While critical of the process, they do not want to jeopardize the opportunity to raise money in conjunction with the concert, projected to draw as many as 8,000 people. "That's why everybody is so careful," said Judy Williamson, who helps raise money for both Hospice and the Friends of Oak Bluffs. "Fundraising is a really tough job. Everybody will be working to find a solution, and make every event a success."
The fundraising groups met privately with Mr. Scherer following their session before the selectmen, but came to no agreement other than to wait until Friday for more information.
There are also critical legal issues related to fundraising. Because the event will require restricting access to a public park, Oak Bluffs town counsel Ron Rappaport has advised town officials the public cannot be excluded from Ocean Park, unless there is a corresponding public benefit. The participation of prominent Island nonprofits, which provide various charitable services for Island residents, is intended to satisfy that legal requirement.
Selectmen took no specific action at Tuesday's meeting, but indicated they want more information from Festival Network by tomorrow. There were broad hints from several selectmen that if Festival Network does not provide that information this week, the selectmen will begin to reconsider the permits they grant for the event, and urge other town boards to apply what pressure they can bring.