Big Pops event may get bigger
Music and fishing were the dominant themes at the Oak Bluffs selectmen's meeting Tuesday night. Promoters of the Boston Pops concert in Ocean Park described their plans for the summer and opponents of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament repeated their objections to the long running event.
Pops concert representatives plan several changes, including a different fundraising structure and a proposal for food and alcohol sales, for the August concert this year.
The Pops concert, held for the first time last year, attracted approximately 5,000 people to the park, where the Pops performed with guest stars Natalie Cole and Branford Marsalis. Many judged the concert a resounding success, but following an evaluation of last year's event, several selectmen had questions about traffic, parking, and street closures.
Rick White, a senior producer with the Festival Network, outlined the proposed modifications.
Last year's fundraising provided that a portion of ticket sales was donated to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. According to fundraising organizers, the hospital netted approximately $95,000 from the event.
This year, promoters do not plan to make any outright donations. Instead, several Island charities will be eligible to buy premium seating tickets at face value, and resell them at a higher value. Organizers suggest the charities package the tickets with a reception or other added value.
"They can sell them for double the price," said Herb Putnam of West Tisbury, who works for the Festival Network, "and keep the money over and above the fixed price on the ticket. No one is going to be just handed money for their organization. They're going to have to work for it."
Organizers also want to serve food and alcohol during the event, perhaps in partnership with local businesses.
"What we're trying to do is embrace the merchant community, asking them to participate with us by having booths inside the area," said Mr. White. Selectmen are exploring several legal issues surrounding the sale of alcohol in the public park.
Also planned is an expanded program, beginning at 2 pm, and including time for Martha's Vineyard musicians to perform. The promoters said the Boston Pops will definitely be on the program, and that they are negotiating with a another well-known performer, but they would not reveal the name of that performer.
Organizers plan to erect a higher fence along the park where it borders Seaview Avenue. Last year many people gathered outside a low fence and viewed the concert for free. Police chief Eric Blake said that created an unmanageable and dangerous public safety issue, with cars traveling as close as one foot away from people watching the concert. This year the fence will block the view, and festival organizers hope to use that area as parking for disabled patrons.
Also appearing at the invitation of the board of selectmen were representatives of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has waged a public relations campaign against the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, along with representatives of the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
The 22nd annual Monster Shark Tournament is scheduled for July 17-19 this year. ESPN featured the event in 2004, 2005 and 2006, but did not cover the shark tournament last year.
At the Oak Bluffs annual town meeting last year, 458 Oak Bluffs voters said yes and 386 said no to a non-binding ballot question that asked if the town should continue to allow the use of town property for events related to shark tournaments.
John Grandy, vice-president of HSUS, previewed a video public service announcement for selectmen. The video spot was critical of commercial shark fishing and sport tournaments. Last year, HSUS handed out literature, bought newspaper ads, and hired a plane to fly a banner promoting its view. Mr. Grandy told the board "we are certainly prepared to carry on the fight again." He added the group has produced "another [video spot] that's tougher, that we're prepared to run if we need to."
In a phone interview Wednesday, Mr. Grandy said the second video spot features footage of last year's tournament. "It shows some of the direct and most egregious cruelty and inhumanity from last year's tournament." He said HSUS would distribute the spot, if the shark tournament goes on as planned again this year.
Chairman Kerry Scott, who has opposed the tournament in the past, advised that the presentation was not a public hearing, that no decisions would be made, and that public comment would be limited. But several local people did speak in favor of the tournament, and the business it brings to Oak Bluffs.
"When we stop the Monster Shark Tournament, where do we go next?" said Stuart Robinson, who owns Smoke 'N' Bones restaurant. "You're taking the biggest weekend in Oak Bluffs away."
Ms. Scott said business owners would have an opportunity to voice their views at the selectmen's meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 19. She did not return a call requesting comment on that meeting.
A liquor license is the jurisdiction of the board of selectmen, and there are indications that any decision on a license would be a close vote.
Organizers have not yet applied for a liquor permit this year.
If denied a license, tournament organizers could move the event to a private venue, as they have in past years.