Updated August 13
Three days of sunshine. Three incidents of public drunkenness over three days. No injuries. Thousands of smiling faces.
Adam Epstein, CEO of Innovation Arts & Entertainment, is declaring success for Beach Road Weekend. Not financially, but in setting the groundwork of what he hopes will become an annual event. The three-day crowd was estimated at 15,000 people.
“We knew we were under a microscope; actually we were under a magnifying glass under the sun,” Epstein said Monday. If anything went wrong, it would be on Beach Road Weekend, and he knew it.
Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio said three people were taken into protective custody (PC) for public intoxication, one of them just near the concert venue. That was the extent of any issues during the festival, he said.
“In general, it went terrific,” Saloio said. “To have three PCs, that was just an incredibly safe weekend. The staff did a phenomenal job. It was great to hear compliments, but as good as the staff was, the people who attended the festival were good and decent people. That’s just as much a reason why it went so smoothly.”
Saloio said traffic was not any different than a typical summer weekend at Five Corners. “It really went well. I’m very pleased,” he said. “There was a good feeling in there. People enjoyed themselves. When everything was said and done, it was a safe event. That’s what I was looking for.”
To Epstein, the measure of success wasn’t in dollars. “Not even close,” Epstein said, taking a moment away from an interview to write a check for one of the vendors. “It’s like building a hotel or a restaurant. To think you’re going to open and make money in the first three days is ridiculous.”
The idea was to create an experience that got people talking, Epstein said. On social media, the narrative shifted from “what were you thinking” to “that was awesome.”
“My wife, Mandy, pointed out that people are talking about how much fun they had. They weren’t even talking about the bands,” Epstein said. “We couldn’t do it without the bands, of course, but that experience is what we wanted to deliver.”
It’s one thing to call it a success internally, but Epstein has to convince the board of selectmen it was a success in order to do it again. Melinda Loberg, chair of the board of selectmen, attended two days of the festival, and was happy with the event. Town leaders are going to do an internal review reaching out to neighbors and businesses to get their feedback, but the initial reports are positive, she said.
“At the end of the night [Sunday], I spoke to both chiefs who were there watching things. They were extremely pleased with how smoothly it went, and how few problems there were and how streamlined the organization was for the festival,” Loberg said.
Loberg said she personally heard only one complaint, and it was about noise. “Depending on which way the wind was blowing, the volume went in certain directions,” she said.
The public reaction she witnessed at the event was all positive. “One thing that we feel is a good takeaway on the first blush and that is that we have the capacity to do this — our town, our staff. They can all handle this. They have professionalism. That was gratifying to know. It was all hands on deck. Every staff member. Everyone really chipped in.”
Seth Gambino, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for selectman in April in part on his opposition to the festival, hung up the phone when he was asked to comment on the event.
“It was an amazing event. The concert itself was put together with professionalism, not only by Adam Epstein and Innovation Arts & Entertainment, but the department heads for the town of Tisbury,” selectman Jeff Kristal, who ran against Gambino, said. “It exceeded my expectations. This is something that Vineyard Haven and Tisbury should be proud of. People enjoyed themselves immensely, and want to do it again.”
The initial reaction from the business community is positive, too. Sarah York, manager of CB Stark and head of the Vineyard Haven Business Association, said she’s spoken to several business owners who were thrilled with the residual foot traffic to their businesses. “The Green Room had an increase in business they directly attribute to to Beach Road. People came in saying they were here for the festival,” York said. “Waterside Market had one of their top five days ever.”
York, who also lives in Vineyard Haven, said she traveled through Five Corners several times during the festival and found it to be no busier than usual. She went to all three days, and said it rivaled experiences she had off-Island. “I’m personally very pleased. Adam did a wonderful job delivering on the promises he made to the town,” she said. “It was safe, clean, and the traffic was not crazy … They managed traffic better than festivals I’ve been to off-Island.”
Marinko Vukota, who lives on State Road not far from the field, praised the event. “I feel like the majority of the comments I’ve seen on social media,” Vukota told The Times. “We walked in both Saturday and Sunday. I was very impressed with the venue and how well they seemed to be organized. The food was great and I felt everything was reasonably priced. Loved John Fogerty, and Grace Potter kicked Sunday.”
After a visit to Norton Point, Vukota said she returned home, faced no traffic, and went back to the festival. “So all-in-all, if I had to score on a scale of 1-10, a well-deserved 9.”
Epstein is hopeful selectmen will conclude they want to do this again. It took a lot of work to secure offsite parking (the money going to charities), hire a company for bus shuttle service, and all of the other vendors. But now that Epstein has successfully worked with them, he says he’ll do it again.
“I’m loyal to people who take a chance on me. We honor the investment people make in us,” he said. Now instead of making dozens of visits, he’ll be able to make one call to secure vendors, he said.
J.B. Blau, owner of several Island restaurants managed the alcohol sales for Beach Road Weekend, said there was one word to describe the event: “Surreal.” He said it’s amazing what Epstein and his staff were able to pull off.
In the coming days, Epstein will work out some of the areas where he doesn’t have to spend as much. For example, he spent $275,000 in branding Beach Road Weekend — some of it worked, some of it didn’t, he said. “We lost money, but next year we’ll know what we don’t need,” he said.
Epstein and his team posed for a photograph in front of the Beach Road sign created by artist Jack Yuen. It was a quick respite and then back to work. Epstein is facing another deadline. Getting as much off the field before a deluge of rain hits Tuesday afternoon into Tuesday night.
Asked how long it would take to do the dismantling, Epstein chuckled: “C’mon.”
Updated with more comments about the festival.