Improvements promised for Beach Road Weekend

Select board raises security, noise concerns.

Innovation Arts & Entertainment CEO Adam Epstein recommended possible improvements for Beach Road Weekend.

Innovation Arts & Entertainment CEO Adam Epstein promised improvements will be coming to Beach Road Weekend for this year’s festival. During the Tisbury Select Board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8, Epstein provided the board with updates and recommendations for the Beach Road Weekend music festival’s improvement. 

A 28-page letter outlining the festival’s internal review, response to public concerns, and next steps from Epstein is available on the Tisbury town website. It was posted in January. The letter covered a variety of topics, such as public safety, the impact on the local economy, and philanthropy. Epstein said the document took him a couple of weeks to put together.

“We did a full evaluation of every single element and question and concern that had been raised by the public during the November meetings,” Epstein said. “We believe we published an unvarnished, objective evaluation of the festival.” 

Innovative Arts held meetings at the Tisbury Senior Center, and also a Zoom call in October. Beach Road Weekend received mostly praise during the virtual October meeting, which shifted to a round of mainly criticisms during the November meeting. Even with pushback from festival-site neighbors, a serpentine line formed in Vineyard Haven when presale tickets for the festival opened last month. 

Board member John Cahill highlighted four concerns with the festival after reading the document: public safety, “conflicting reports” about the post-festival condition of Veterans Memorial Park, noise and traffic levels during the festival, and whether the appropriate insurances are in place. “I’m all in favor of creating a signature event, but is this the right one?” he asked. “Is this the right size; is it the right location?” 

Epstein referred public safety to the festival’s emergency action plan, updated since 2019, which he said was evaluated by insurers and every Tisbury town department. The concert capacity has also been reviewed by the town’s departments. “They have not only seen it put on paper, they have seen it put in action,” he said. 

Beach Road Weekend’s actual capacity is “significantly under the recommended capacity and fire code capacity for the site,” Epstein said. “We are rated to go to a 19,000-person capacity event,” Epstein said, who later said only 12,000 people would be allowed per festival day. “It’s more of an interest to us to have a safe, comfortable environment, and we even use it as a slogan for the festival: ‘Less jam-packed, more jamming.’”

Epstein said that Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland and Police Chief Chris Habekost thought the capacity was handled “extremely well,” with no crowd-related issues on festival premises, and the few that did occur outside were “easily managed.” When board member Abbe Burt mentioned that there were too many buses, particularly on Skiff Avenue, alongside backed-up traffic, Epstein said a new route was being considered. 

However, Epstein acknowledged that some people may disagree about the crowd-related findings, and wanted experts onsite to monitor and report issues, particularly regarding sound, which can be addressed “in the immediate moment.” 

“Our goal with this year is to have the opportunity to do a formal sound check where we can actually test our systems and record their impact before the festival starts, so that we can appropriately set the audio systems, so we can have the least amount of bleed outside the park,” Epstein said. He added that last year, there were “profane phone calls” coming to town hall during the Beach Road Weekend audio check, and promoters were told to stop.

He suggested a published time this year for the sound checks, alongside a hotline for any problems that may occur. 

When Cahill asked what the appropriate decibel level was for the festival area, Epstein said it depends on the hours of operation, with 11 pm being the “cutoff” for when more attention needs to be given to sound. Epstein said it is common for music festivals to produce 100 decibels from the soundboard during an event. 

“The general ambient decibel level is approximately 60 to 70 decibels in August on Beach Road,” Epstein said. “Generally speaking, while you can hear the festival, it is not in excess of 70 decibels during the hours of operation.” 

As an example, Epstein said people can hear Steamship Authority ferry horns from a distance. Cahill pushed back on the comment, saying a ferry horn isn’t a continuous sound like the music festival. 

Regarding the state of the park after the festival, Cahill said some people said it was fine, while others complained it might be time for a committee to act as “stewards” of the open space to determine current conditions and future aspirations for the location. 

Tisbury town administrator John Grande agreed that there have been conflicting reports, and also felt the need for “a highly focused group.” Additionally, he said, the revenue from Beach Road Weekend could be added to a fund dedicated to the park’s maintenance rather than a general fund. 

For insurance, Grande said, there is coverage put in place by Innovation Arts & Entertainment and the vendors. “It would be prudent to review those again, and also make sure we do have conformance to that insurance requirement, and communicate again regarding the festival with our insurer to see if there’s any updates or changes that they would recommend,” Grande said. 

Epstein said his company’s insurance provides “full coverage for the town and us,” and “full coverage as recommended by the state.”

“We follow standard business practices when it comes to what insurance coverage most municipalities request, and our coverage actually exceeds what was requested by the town of Tisbury by $3 million,” Epstein said, adding that his company provides $5 million in coverage to the town. 

When Burt asked what Innovation Arts & Entertainment is doing about the $2 million loss it reported on Beach Road Weekend activities, Epstein replied, “We didn’t lose $2 million, we invested it.” He said he made up the $2 million himself. “We believe that this is like building a hotel. When you build it right and you build it as a comfortable place to come, they will come every year,” Epstein said. 

He said he expects the losses will be recovered over time. “We build an attractive brand, and we invest at the beginning so people come back,” Epstein said. 

After further discussion, Cahill moved to investigate options to “own and manage [festival] incidents as they occur.” Grande said a proposal can be presented by town staff within 30 days. The board unanimously approved the motion.