The plan to host a three-day music festival in South Beach the weekend after Art Basel is being received enthusiastically among some residents and businesses in the resort city, while others have concerns about the expected traffic and post-concert cleanup.
Miami Beach Pop Festival, the brainchild of the producers who founded the annual Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, is proposed for Dec. 14-16 on the beach between Fifth and 10th streets. Producers anticipate about 30,000 people a day attending the festivities, which could include a diverse range of high-profile artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Luis Fonsi and Jimmy Buffet for what is being pitched as a family-oriented event for all ages.
Paul Peck, a 12-year production veteran who has held various positions for Bonnaroo Music Festival, and Steve Sybesma, a Beach resident with 40 years of marketing and entertainment production experience, are behind the concept. They are working with Miami Beach-based ACT Productions to plan the festival.
The city has not granted permits for the festival yet. Given the potential impacts to the quality of life for residents, the size of the festival has triggered a public input process where producers are hearing from locals before presenting the concept to the City Commission for approval.
After the first two public meetings, the idea has strong support among some residents who feel the production team is pitching a valuable cultural event that will cater to South Florida music fans.
“This city could use a world-class music event,” said Logan Fazio, a Mid-Beach resident who spoke at a community forum Tuesday night.
On the other hand, some opposition has already forced producers to tweak their original plans. At the first public forum last week, a group of volleyball players objected to the use of their courts in Lummus Park because of problems with past events — debris left behind in the sand has injured some players.
“In my repeated experience, all prior events leave behind sharp screws, broken glass and other dangerous materials. Though often times a good job is done with trash pickup, these dangerous objects are harder to detect and collect,” said resident Alain Leon. “After beach events, those of us who spend a good bit of time in the sand find ourselves constantly removing rusty screws and other dangerous objects.”
Tuesday night, producers announced they are honoring the players’ wishes and no longer plan to use the courts.
Leon was pleased with the fast adjustment, but he tempered his support for Miami Beach Pop.
“Given the way the festival was described and promises made, I tentatively support this event,” he said. “Having said that, we all know that promises are easier made than kept.”
Peck and Sybesma emphasized they want to “celebrate the Beach,” and place a high priority on making sure the event does not leave behind a mess. They plan to have staff work with local volunteers to conduct a thorough cleanup after the weekend, as well as encouraging festival-goers to clean up after themselves.
“I can’t stress enough how much the cleanup of the beach is a priority for us,” Peck said.
Traffic has other residents nervous about creating more congestion right after the annual rush of people that comes with Art Basel and the host of satellite art fairs that are held across Miami Beach.
South Beach resident Miguel Orozco said he believes the producers, who are working with Beach-based ACT Productions, are capable of putting on a well-planned event. He just worries the timing is off, even if organizers say the weekend is a typically slower period for the tourism industry. He said he’d be more supportive if the dates were changed.
“Let us just enjoy the holidays without having another busy weekend,” he said.
The Miami Beach Pop team insists it will develop a plan to mitigate traffic, which will likely include encouraging ride-sharing and use of public transit. They are also talking with organizers of Scope Art Fair, which is held annually in a tent on the sand where Miami Beach Pop wants to set up, to work out a deal where the music festival can use the same tent.
Several speakers voiced support for Peck and Sybesma’s vision of a festival that aims to be a wide-ranging cultural event, with a diverse showing of musicians, artists and even chefs who are based in or connected to South Florida to be featured alongside nationally known acts across different genres. Producers also want to showcase student musicians from Miami Beach Senior High School and the University of Miami Frost School of Music.
“This is an opportunity for students to really see what it’s like in the industry they might want to get into,” said Benjamin Deitch, a senior at Beach High who got to play drums with a jazz ensemble at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival last year.
The business community is taking an interest in the anticipated windfall that could come with the festival. Jerry Libbin, president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are ready to ensure the event is a “quality event with a cultural aspect.”
Peck noted this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Miami Pop Festival, a 1968 concert at Gulfstream Park that featured a notable performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He said the goal is to mount a production that is distinctively Miami Beach with participation and cooperation from the community.
“I see a clear path ahead so we can bring something world-class to Miami Beach,” he said.
Peck’s partner, Sybesma, said he hopes to allay any public concerns by having more meetings with the community. The organizers plan to continue public outreach by meeting with resident groups in South Beach in the coming weeks.