Review is an important step


In the military, an after-action review (AAR) is an essential part of training. After a session is over, commanding officers — with the assistance of those involved in the training — assess how things went. They talk about what went as planned, and what needs to be improved upon for the next training session.

We think this is a missing step in the Beach Road Weekend festival, and we’re glad to see that the town of Tisbury has taken the advice of town moderator Deborah Medders, and will schedule such a forum in November. We think, given festival promoter Adam Esptein’s commitment to hold the festival as an annual event, this type of AAR should become an important part of the event.

Not only does the event bring thousands of visitors to the Island (about 6,000 people brought to the Island, and another 4,000 already on-Island who purchased tickets), but requires a lot of logistics involved in moving and setting up the stage and sound equipment. 

Since Beach Road Weekend is renting a public park, the public has a right to ask questions about its use, and to ensure that the resource is being protected. As public records obtained by The Times show, there was some concern that the field was not being repaired as provided for in the contract. DPW director Kirk Metell raised questions about whether seed slicing had been done, according to an email between town administrator Jay Grande and Epstein.

Ultimately, Metell was wrong in his criticism (we actually witnessed the seeding being done on August 31 — just three days after the third and final concert), but this is something that could have been hashed out at an AAR rather than in behind-the-scenes emails, because some members of the public had the same questions. Given the state of the field at the end of a long, dry summer, we think ultimately the field has benefited from the care provided by Epstein’s contractor after the concert, as well as some timely rain in late September and early October.

As our comment section suggests, people have a lot of opinions about the three-day festival.

Some folks love it, and think it finally gives Tisbury a signature event similar to the Ag Fair in West Tisbury, the fireworks in Oak Bluffs, and the Fourth of July parade and fireworks in Edgartown. Others aren’t so sure that Beach Road Weekend is something the Island needs or wants.

In January, the Tisbury select board committed to Beach Road Weekend for three years. While we can certainly see the benefits for Epstein to know he has the town’s support for the event for three years, we do think the town handled that commitment poorly. The item was on the board’s agenda, but the public wasn’t alerted to it besides the obligatory notice of the agenda on the town’s website, on the board at the town clerk’s office, and by us publishing the agenda in our daily newsletter, The Minute. We think it would have been a good idea for the board to take the three-year commitment under advisement, to give the public more time to provide feedback. Because that wasn’t done, it fueled the narrative of some of the opponents of the project that the select board has played favorites when it comes to Epstein.

But since that’s all water over the dam, it’s time to make sure that Beach Road Weekend is the best possible event it can be without causing too much of an imposition to neighbors, in particular, and the Island, in general.

For example, Epstein’s contract calls for the concert to have “zero waste to the maximum extent possible.” This year’s concert failed on that front, something that Epstein acknowledged when we spoke to him after the concert. “We did not do the best possible,” he said. “The best possible would be monitoring trash bags that go into the dumpster. I’m disappointed and regretful of it. It definitely needs to be done better in the future.”

This is the perfect topic for an AAR. What went wrong in trying to keep solid waste to a minimum, and what steps can be taken at next year’s festival to maximize recycling efforts? 

What’s also clear in the comments made on our website and in social media is that some of the conversation — on both sides — is not productive. It’s so easy to sit behind a keyboard and throw stones, but how about offering up solutions?

We appreciate that Epstein doesn’t run from the controversy, but at times some of his responses can come off as dismissive, defensive, and, ultimately, unproductive.

And the commenters tossing about words like “greed” or “ego,” and making judgments about Epstein’s motives, aren’t really helping either.

Getting in a room and talking things out should help keep the focus on what went right, what needs improvement, and what changes can happen to improve the event for everyone involved. 

Epstein won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time, but they’ll at least know their concerns are on the record and, most important, the select board members who make decisions on such contracts will be hearing from all sides.