Tisbury selectmen preliminarily approve music festival

Licensing agreement, alcohol sales, and further public opinion still on horizon.

Lorraine Parish spoke against the idea of the music festival, saying it’s “salt in the wound,” to an already hectic August on the Island. –Rich Saltzberg

Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve Chicago-based Innovation Arts & Entertainment to engage in commercial activity at Veterans Memorial Park on Aug. 9, 10, and 11, a major step toward the overall approval of a music festival.

The concept was first pitched to the board on Dec. 18 by Adam Epstein, CEO of the company, and revisited on Jan. 8. A licensing agreement, the fate of alcohol sales, and a raft of logistics must all be tackled for the festival to be fully authorized. The selectmen reserved the right to weigh public opinion through a hearing, despite a letter from town counsel indicating a hearing wasn’t mandatory for the event. The board also voted unanimously to empower town administrator Jay Grande to hammer out an agreement with town counsel and Epstein that might be signed as soon as Jan. 22.

“I’d like to lend qualified support for us moving ahead,” selectman Melinda Loberg said. She characterized the event, should it come to fruition, as “definitely a trial” that will be analyzed for its pros and cons afterward.

Selectmen chairman Tristain Israel repeatedly said he would like to avoid alcohol sales for the festival, and revisit the idea, should it be invited back, for the following summer. Epstein didn’t dismiss the prohibition, but pointed out it would increase ticket prices.

Selectman Jim Rogers said he wanted whatever agreement comes to pass to be a finished document, one not returned to for modifications as time passes. He also said he wants to ensure private parking lots are protected from festivalgoers.

A handful of audience members expressed their opinions to the board about the festival. Clothing designer Lorraine Parish, who runs a boutique on State Road in Vineyard Haven, came out against it: “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone here. I cannot believe you people that work for this town are remotely considering this possibility. The thought of it — my blood pressure is up. It is unbearable here in August with the boats, the traffic, the heat, the noise. That’s salt in the wound. I can’t believe anybody thinks this is a viable idea.”

She went on to say the festival promoters will reap profits while locals will pay “with the quality of our lives,” that her customers are already hesitant to brave Tisbury in the summer, and that the event will constitute the “nail in the coffin” for their patronage.

Dan Carbon, manager of Educomp, an office supplies and technical services business at the intersection of State Road and Main Street, said he was concerned for the ability of his technicians to come and go in the face of the traffic the festival would generate, and worried about safeguarding his parking spaces. As he is also landlord to several tenants in the building, he said, noise generated from the festival could have a negative impact on them.

John Zannini, who owns Salt, a clothing boutique on Lagoon Pond Road, said he supports the festival. “I think it’s a really great idea,” he said. “I’m here to support it.”

Zannini said he has been to other local music events produced by Innovation and found them “very well done.” He also said, “I think it’s a great thing for the town. And when I think about, you know, you all are facing the renovation, reconstruction with the school. That’s a big specific problem that needs to be solved …” The town’s cut from festival revenue could be directed to the school project, he said. He closed out his comment by saying there wasn’t an issue the festival would generate that couldn’t be solved, and overall, the event would be a boon to the town and the Vineyard.

Per discussions thus far, the town is projected to get about $40,000 from the festival.

Seth Gambino, owner of La Choza, a takeout burrito shop on Main Street, renewed disapproval he’d voiced over the event during the last selectmen’s meeting. Due to its length, Israel declined to allow him to read into the record a critical statement he’s written about the festival, but allowed his commentary.

Gambino called the festival a “ridiculously a bad idea” and said he was upset he had to fight it ahead of surgery he’s scheduled to undergo. Gambino calculated the number of festival attendees would exceed the number of lawn seats at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, or “more than three times the capacity of the House of Blues in Boston.”

A letter read into the record by Israel, one of several, supported the concert and countered assertions Gambio previously made.

“This festival will bring both cultural and financial rewards to the town, its residents, and our visitors,” wrote Philip Young. “I can also state from working with Mr. Epstein [on the] Summer Concert Series, that he and his staff run an extremely efficient organization and that while attending everyone of the concerts last summer, I witnessed none of the concerns brought up by Mr. Gambino at last week’s meeting. This is a good idea for the Vineyard and Tisbury and I urge you to grant the permit.”

Epstein worked to debunk an assertion made by Gambino at the last meeting about a summer festival dealing harm to the town of Great Barrington.

“That town now hosts two summer festivals, each three days apiece,” he said. “Each of them have been annually produced — profitably and with participation from [Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art], which is one of the most venerable art and theatrical institutions in Western Massachusetts. That organization invited them back every year because they see the benefit of participating in the success of putting on a great event. That’s what we can do here if we team up together. And right now we’ve worked with the department of public works, with the chief of police, with the fire and EMS department, for months now, engaging in a conversation all towards the end goal of trying to figure out the best solutions …”

The selectmen will return to the issue of the festival at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting next week.


  1. Extremely risky during the 3 busiest days of the year. Traffic jams could be hours preventing emergency vehicles from passing. This should be a no for July or August, shoulder months yes

  2. It’s hard to believe that anyone thinks that this is a good idea. GRIDLOCK of biblical proportions will appear on the busiest three days of the year. There is one road in to the site and one road out. What about access to the Steamship and Hospital ? What happens when the drawbridge opens and traffic backs up into downtown VH ? How are the local businesses going to weather the drunken hordes before and after the concerts ? This will shut down traffic up to Edgartown Road. Who benefits from this inane idea ? The three selectman are stooges.
    This should be put up to a vote of the townspeople – and we can also have a recall vote for the selectman.

  3. Hmmm…a music fest during the second busiest week of the Summer. People, including myself, try to make the Vineyard into something it isn’t. It is not a great place for a festival.
    Nantucket failed and so did the Vineyard with the many festivals held in Oak Bluffs near the most accessible Ferry terminal.
    Plus, $40,000, if that’s not inflated, isn’t a very big gain for the Town. Sounds un-sound.

  4. Lets see. There’s already gridlock at 5 Corners, the busiest, most impossible intersection on the island. I know! Lets have a 3 day, 6000 person music festival right in the middle of that during the busiest week of the summer. Oh wait, lets also put it in a swampy field where ducks actually swim after a rainstorm. Throw in some alcohol. What could possibly go wrong?

  5. I appreciated the comments by mr gambino and ms parish but they seem to be on the extreme end by including references of off island establishments, Xfinity center and house of blues. Keeping it local I can reference the size and the promoter did that at the last meeting (as in the papers) he had. It’s considerably less than fOB fireworks and way less than the fair. When Ms, parish talks says “it’s unbearable here in August with the boats, the traffic, the heat, the noise” some of us islanders believe we can use the business, like the heat and don’t consider the possible line up of music “NOISE”, we could all use a little more music in our lives..

    There’s a bunch of people here that month so the town (and businesses) should capitalize on it. I for one will be at the Jaws movie but not sure about the concert yet. For a year trial like loberg says makes sense to a whole bunch of us.

  6. If it were up to all the naysayers here we would never do anything, bad time of year, the music sucks, too many people, etc….the list goes on and on. I curse under my breath (sometimes aloud) with all the inconveniences that come with the way MV is in the summer but I also go out and enjoy the events, restaurants, farmers markets, etc… that come with summer here. Sometimes it seems like there are way too many Eeyores living here.

  7. So, call me Eeyor. There must be some point at which the infrastructure of The Island cannot safely accommodate an influx of people that many people. I don’t know where that point is, though I have an idea. I had to go the the ER in the Hospital here last summer. Just an average summer weekday, and all the rooms in the ER are filled. There were patients in beds, lining the hallways. The hallways were filled, so people were being admitted to the waiting room. Thank God I didn’t needed top be admitted. What percent of that influx will require medical attention, and where are they going to find it?

  8. Is it still too late to suggest doing this in September?
    Seems like this is being shoved down the throat of Vineyard Haven. I am definitely against live music, but there is a right time and a right place for everything.

  9. Ok… retraction…. I am definatly NOT against live music anywhere…. except a soggy, hard to secure,very difficult logistical soccer field. Next to the number one worst traffic intersection in the middle of the summer
    Should everyone just park on Lagoon pond road, beach road or main street?

  10. Hi Eeyor,
    We will not be bringing 6000 people in from off island. Ticket sales and marketing will be designed to focus on full time islanders at first and then people who spend the summer here.

    Universally speaking, our shows do not bring people from off-island for two easy to understand reasons 1) hotels are so expensive over the summer that practically, its not worth the value to spend $500 per night for a hotel for a show with a $75 ticket; and 2) the bands are also performing regionally around the east coast in Providence, Newport, Boston, Hyannis, etc. Our audience, as a result, is 99% people already on MV. With our sellout capacity 40% less than the Ag Fair attendance on their slowest day, we don’t think we’ll have much trouble most, if not all, tickets to people already on MV.

    I hope you see how its really not practical for people to flood MV from off-island for a concert.

  11. The first time I was on the Vineyard was july 4 th weekend 1986 — there was a “vineyard peace concert” on the high school grounds– it went well.
    But to have a concert in August at vet park ? And they are considering allowing alcohol sales ? Did we elect these people ? What are they thinking ?

    • Dondon you were the roundabout, alcohol and beer and wine and it’s no surprise to people that enjoy reading your commentary you’re against this.

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