The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

Amesbury Festival moved to Sports Park !

Organizers reject city’s terms . . . . . . . . . . .

AMESBURY, MA. — Just three weeks before it was due to hit the stage at Landry Stadium, the Amesbury Harvest Fair and Country Music Festival has changed venues.

While the three-day show featuring Travis Tritt and the Charlie Daniels Band is still scheduled to go on Sept. 22-24, concertgoers will no longer be bused into the stadium behind Amesbury Middle School. Instead, they will head to New England Sports Park on South Hunt Road.

Amesbury Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kassandra Gove has been working with the co-owners of Rock Lobster Productions, Charlene Colgan and Chris Keenan, and Mayor Ken Gray’s administration for the past year to bring the festival to the downtown area.

Gove said everything was proceeding according to plan until roughly a week ago when she said the terms for using the city-owned stadium changed.

“We thought we were on the right track,” Gove said. “We were stepping into the final stages of logistics with city departments and a new list of requirements came our way, including cleanup, that we had not been made aware of beforehand. We couldn’t come to an agreement on that list, so we decided our only option was to come off of city property.”

While Gove did not go into detail on just what Gray’s administration had recently asked of her, the mayor said Monday that no permits had been issued by the city since the applicants, Rock Lobster Productions and the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce, “would not agree to provide payment of fees.”

“The city did not decide to change the proposed venue for this event, that was entirely the applicants’ choice,” Gray said. “After notifying the city of their reduced crowd expectations in early August, from 8,000 people per day to 3,500 people per day, the applicant first informed the city of this most recent change on August 30 by delivering a revised permit application identifying the new location.”

Gray said the cancellation of the downtown events was also entirely the Chamber and Rock Lobster’s decision. He added that liquor licenses had yet to be granted for the music festival and no proof-of-insurance certificates had been received.

“The terms and conditions for special events conducted in Amesbury are not new and are prominently displayed on the city website and the applicant has known about them for months,” Gray said. “The city is working diligently to expedite permitting as much as possible, given their last-minute change of plans. The city has and will continue to do everything we can to support this event.”

Designed to showcase not only Landry Stadium but the downtown with a special free concert stage set up in the Upper Millyard, Gove said all of the Harvest Fair’s events will now take place at New England Sports Park and completely off city property.

“We have been talking to the downtown businesses and we should be talking to the administration at the beginning of the week to see just what they will allow us to do in the downtown,” Gove said.

“It certainly is our intention to invite downtown businesses up to the sports park,” she said. “We will have a Discover Amesbury tent there and we will be encouraging people to get on the shuttles and go down to downtown to eat and shop around, and come back. People will have bracelets so that they can come and go.”

Gove said holding the three-day music festival at New England Sports Park, located directly off Route 495, should make it more convenient to out-of-towners who will be parking at the Northern Essex Community College campus in Haverhill, then be bused to the concert.

“It’s more accessible and it’s bigger,” Gove said. “I think this is a testament to how organized the festival has been that we can literally pick it up and move it three weeks before it was supposed to happen.”

While Gove said the change of venue has been an inconvenience for the festival’s producers, all ticket holders will be notified of the changes online where they made their purchases so it shouldn’t cause too much trouble.

“For the people who are coming from outside of Amesbury, this probably doesn’t mean a whole lot for them,” Gove said. “They will be parking in the same location and getting on the shuttles, so that will probably not be a big deal to them.

“But it is unfortunate because we wanted to show off (Landry Stadium.) It really doesn’t change their plans,” she said. “If they planned on getting on the shuttle and going into the downtown in the first place, that is probably still a part of their plans.”

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