Oak Bluffs selectmen approve July 12 music and arts festival

Dredge materials were deposited on Inkwell Beach in mid-March with assurances that the sand would bleach out. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Making his second appearance before the selectmen, Phil daRosa of Oak Bluffs won approval by a four to one vote to stage a music and arts festival, “Music on the Rock,” at Waban Park on Saturday, July 12. Selectmen conditioned the vote on approval by the parks commission and the Oak Bluffs police department.

Mr. daRosa said “Music on the Rock” will be a family friendly event, with a diverse roster of bands that will appeal to all ages. He also said the festival will also be a venue where local artists can show their work and where local victualers can sell their food and drink. The event is scheduled to run from 3 to 9 pm.

Mr. daRosa first proposed the festival to the selectmen at their regular meeting on March 25. A majority of selectmen thought his plan lacked logistical details and that it was too late in the year to plan a large outdoor event in July. Selectmen encouraged Mr. daRosa to chose a later date, possibly in September. Mr. daRosa said he chose the July 12 date because there’s typically a swoon in business on the Island the weekend after the fourth of July and that a September date would exclude summer visitors and college students who are integral to the festival’s success.

Police Chief Erik Blake told the selectmen that if Mr. daRosa limited the number of tickets to 3,000, he was confident a detail of 10 officers could effectively handle security. Mr. daRosa promised to work closely with the chief in the coming months to address fencing, neighborhood impact, and parking issues. He had previously agreed to pay the police detail in full before the event.

Selectman Walter Vail questioned his experience to pull off the event successfully. Mr. daRosa, former entertainment director at Dreamland and Flatbread and a musician with Vineyard-based Dukes County Love Affair, said he had organized two successful outdoor events in Chilmark last summer and he would be working in conjunction with San Miguel Sound, a production company that has produced festivals nationwide and recently staged a successful outdoor event in Mexico with three months planning time.

“I agree, there’s a lull in July,” selectman Kathy Burton said. “The time frame of 3 to 9 pm is reasonable. Tell me about the fence.” The ensuing discussion made it clear that the type of fencing required might remain a sticking point.

Selectman Gail Barmakian expressed repeated concerns about parking and the impact on the neighborhood of a 3,000 person event at Waban Park. She suggested that Mr. daRosa consider another location.

Dennis daRosa, Mr. daRosa’s father and an Oak Bluffs businessman, countered that there were events at the Tabernacle last summer that drew over 2,000 and parking was not an issue. “When I was a kid there were circuses in Waban Park,” he said. “I think saying parking is going to be a nightmare is a fallacy. You’re using it as a red herring to mitigate something you don’t want to happen.”

Selectman Greg Coogan was vocal in his support. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I think Waban Park is extremely underused. Bringing culture to the town is a great idea. A lot of this makes sense to me. You should go for the [3,000 person] cap and we should use the park once in a while.”

Ms. Burton made a motion to approve the festival with a cap of 3,000 tickets, and pending park department and police department approval. “Go forth and be successful, son,” Mr. Coogan said.

Ms. Barmakian said she supported the idea in spirit but felt compelled to cast a dissenting vote because of Mr. daRosa’s lack of planning so close to the event.

In other business, outgoing chairman Walter Vail nominated Michael Santoro to fill the seat. Mr. Santoro declined the honor and said he preferred to stay on as vice-chairman due to his extensive business and family commitments. Mr. Vail then nominated Mr. Coogan, who accepted — after a pregnant pause. Ms. Barmakian registered displeasure that she was not considered for the chairmanship and pointedly asked Mr. Vail about his decision making process. Mr. Vail declined to comment. The selectmen approved Mr. Coogan’s nomination with a unanimous vote.

The meeting concluded on a sobering note when seasonal resident Richard Seelig showed the selectmen a sample of the soil that was dredged from the entrance of Lagoon Pond and deposited at the Inkwell Beach. The dredged material, black in color and clay-like in texture also contained various rusted metal objects. The sand substitute has been a concern to many townspeople and it set off a storm of protest on social media in March. Assurances were made by government officials that the dredged material would bleach out by summer. Mr. Seelig’s presentation made it clear that in addition to aesthetic concerns, there were valid safety concerns about the dredge. “This will never bleach out,” Mr. Seelig said, holding up a rusted welding rod.