The Grove has been taken out of Grovetoberfest.
Tough new restrictions forced four major food and dining events to leave Coconut Grove this year, including the popular fall craft beer festival, now in its fifth year. Local business leaders called it a “travesty.” But the city of Miami said extensive damage to Peacock Park during last year’s events made the guidelines necessary.
Both Grovetoberfest and the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival — which drew more than 15,000 people to the Grove in back-to-back weekends — will move next month to Miami Marine Stadium, six miles away across the Rickenbacker Causeway. Grovetoberfest’s organizer and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell have said they are committed to bringing the event back to the Grove next year, but those details are still being negotiated with the city. The others won’t be returning to Coconut Grove.
“We lost it for this year, but we’ll get it back. That’s a promise,” Russell said.
Torrential rains during three back-to-back weekend festivals turned Peacock Park into a “mud pit” last year, one event organizer said. It cost the city more than $45,000 to re-sod the field, and it was unusable most of the next three months while the grass filled in, said City of Miami Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Kirwin.
So the city responded with an iron-fisted restriction: Any event could be canceled the day of if the city deemed it could severely damage the park grass.
“The park got torn up pretty bad as far as the grass goes,” said Tony Albelo of Swarm Event Agency, which puts on Grovetoberfest, as well as more than 30 other events in South Florida.
Albelo said he understands the city wanting to protect the field, but the thought of having to cancel either of his events without any notice to patrons “was tough for me financially and morally. ... There has to be a balance.”
Trucks unloading equipment onto the saturated field caused most of the damage last year, the city’s Kirwin said. He said he stands by a policy that would not allow an event to take place if it means damaging the field beyond repair for a community that uses Peacock Park for everthing from youth league games to sunbathing.
“We’re not going to let somebody go in and load in with big trucks, knowing they’re going to destroy it,” Kirwin said. “The park is not made to have heavy trucks drive on it. It just won’t last. ... We want the park to be used, but used every day.”
This year’s Grovetoberfest will be held Oct. 15 on the grounds of Miami Marine Stadium, a city of Miami property that is paved and has ample parking. The Coconut Grove Seafood Festival will be held there the following day and will stay put rather than try to return to the Grove, Albelo said. It may even expand into a two-day event.
Last spring, because of the city’s new restrictions on Peacock Park, Albelo moved two other Grove-born events to Wynwood: Sprung, a spring beer festival, and Grillin’ in the Grove. The latter, which became the Grillin’ and Chillin’ barbecue festival, had brought another 15,000 people or so to Coconut Grove.
Losing four events this year was a “travesty” for Coconut Grove businesses, said Manny Gonzalez, Coconut Grove’s business development district director. He said the neighborhood has the fewest number of events scheduled in years, a shame for a village that once played host to rock concerts.
“We’re on the side of the event organizers,” said Gonzalez, whose organization manages special events and provides security for the Grove’s 18 downtown blocks. “How can you cancel an event the day of? Nobody wants to take that risk, and I don’t blame them [for moving the event]. It makes it impossible to want to take that gamble.”
Russell tried to mediate a deal between the parks and rec department and Albelo, and thought he had “locked it in” before the city stood firm on its cancellation policy, he said.
The city is steering non-sporting events in the Grove toward the newly renovated Regatta Park, seven acres of tree-lined green space at the site of the former Coconut Grove Exposition Center. Even most of the events for the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival, 54 years running, have been moved out of Peacock Park in favor of Regatta.
The Coconut Grove Pumpkin Patch Festival, a three-day weekend affair in its fifth year, will move there as well. Last year, the pumpkin patch marked the third straight weekend event at Peacock Park marred by October rains.
“It was a mud pit,” pumpkin patch organizer Vanessa Goodis recalled. “People had to look out for giant mud puddles.”
Kirwin said he would welcome back Grovetoberfest, as long as event planners find ways to lessen their impact on the field. Albelo said he and Kirwin continue discussing returning Grovetoberfest to the Grove.
“We want events at Peacock Park,” Kirwin said. “But they have to be done with respect to the entire community that uses the park.”
At least three major events, though — and the dollars they bring — won’t be returning to the Grove.
“The good news is that Grovetoberfest will be back home,” Albelo said. “There needs to be a balance between the park’s needs and the event’s needs.”
This story was updated to reflect information from city of Miami representatives.