They battled a flooded field from a thunderstorm that required Friday night’s concert to be evacuated, traffic snarls due to the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge opening two nights in a row, and escalating costs that put the three-day music festival about $2 million in the hole, but still Beach Road Weekend promoter Adam Epstein called this year’s three-day event a “monstrous success.”
The music festival attracted just under 10,000 visitors to each performance at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven, Epstein told The Times.
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs police reported few problems, with two people taken into protective custody, and one arrest for disorderly conduct. Tisbury Chief Chris Habekost said there was some “distress” caused by the bridge opening.
Epstein expressed surprise that the drawbridge, which is at the discretion of the bridge tender, was opened two nights in a row while shuttle buses were trying to make it from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs so customers could catch ferries and water taxis back to the mainland. He said on Friday night, he has learned it was a small sailboat headed out of the Lagoon — surprising given the storm — that snarled traffic. He said it was disappointing because concert organizers were trying to keep people safe and evacuate them during a major electrical storm, but buses were delayed by 20 minutes.
“I find it ironic that it happened at the same time both nights,” Epstein said. He said there needs to be some discovery about what happened behind the scenes to allow the bridge to be opened and stay open for 20 minutes.
Tisbury Police asked the bridge tender not to allow an opening between 8 and 9 pm on Sunday, Epstein said. “We were able to clear the site in 15 to 20 minutes,” he said.
The ferries and private charters — a bone of contention ahead of the concert — worked well, Epstein said, with the exception of a few people going to the wrong water taxi sites. “We were successful in alleviating the pressure on the Steamship. We moved hundreds of people. Even in the rainstorm, we moved a massive amount of people safely off the Island,” he said.
The field took a punishing blow because of the rain, and as a result, the soft ground was damaged by the heavy equipment removing the stages and other equipment. Epstein told The Times he is committed to making sure the field is repaired and rejuvenated.
A visit to the field on Wednesday showed deep ruts in some spots, worn spots in others, and a bevy of workers still removing equipment. Meanwhile, two people were already getting started on restoration of the field.
“It was Venice backstage. The ground cover was floating. We did not know if we were going to be able to open Saturday. Rain kept coming down. Just never stopped. We knew we couldn’t do anything until the morning, until we could see,” Epstein said. Saturday’s concert was delayed, and some of the early acts were canceled.
“I was here at 5 am on Saturday taking a look at the field. Several points around Veterans Park where water tends to accumulate, accumulated in a big way,” Epstein said. “We had the sprinklers shut off for a week ahead of the concert because the field needs to be able to absorb rainwater. Saturday we opened late. There were huge puddles at the gates. Our magnetometers that people walk through were fried from the storm.”
Epstein said security had to switch to checking bags and pat-downs, which delayed entry.
On social media, Epstein has answered some of the questions raised about the festival, and vowed to restore the field. “Our landscaper knows how to repair it all, and has done it in the past here and in other comparable situations. They’re Vineyard pros entrusted to care for hundreds of homes and public lands,” Epstein wrote on social media.
Epstein told The Times that the landscapers will level the field and plant both fast-growing and slow-growing seed.
“We are on it, and recognize that there is damage,” he wrote. “We own the responsibility of repairs, and will follow it [through] to completion.”
Epstein told The Times he expects the park to be clear of equipment by the end of the day Thursday and for restoration work to continue into next week.
Another area where there have been online complaints is in how the concert handled waste. Epstein conceded they did a poor job with recycling, something he is disappointed about. He said there needs to be better oversight in the future because, he noted, if even a half a beer is dumped with recycling, it taints the recycled materials and they have to be discarded. He said they did use mostly aluminum cans, and there was free potable water onsite that was being used by patrons.
“We did not do the best possible. The best possible would be monitoring trash bags that go into the dumpster,” he said. “I’m disappointed and regretful of it. It definitely needs to be done better in the future.”
Another criticism has been alleged greed associated with the festival. Epstein said the concerts are not about him or his company making money. He said prices escalated on everything from travel to housing to insurance ahead of the concert, but he did not cut back on anything. Instead, he said, he put his own money into the festival to maintain the commitment to the musicians and the customers.
“Honestly, the costs skyrocketed in the last three months,” He said. “We’re $1.8 to $2 million over budget. From a financial standpoint, this was not a success, but you can’t go halfway and you can’t cut corners.”
He said the public will be able to see those numbers through guidestar.org. Beach Road Weekend is funded through a nonprofit, which takes in money and spends it on expenses.
Despite the hiccups, Epstein was pleased with the event, and praised the work of Tisbury police, fire, DPW, and town government working with him in partnership: “We put our best face forward at what Vineyard Haven can do when it puts its mind together and works together.”