The music is over, the roadies have taken up the stage and the crowds are long gone, but the glow of Sunday’s Martha’s Vineyard Festival at Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs remains for many who saw or participated in the marathon 10-hour concert featuring acts including the Boston Pops and Gladys Knight.
“It was a howling success, truly a magical night on the Vineyard,” said Renee Balter, a board member for Friends of Oak Bluffs, one of several nonprofits that sold tickets to the event as part of a fund-raising agreement with concert organizers.
“The concert was great and a vast majority of people were excited to have a concert of this caliber with some of the world’s most talented musicians right here Ocean Park,” said Ron DiOrio, chairman of the Oak Bluffs selectmen.
And while many people raved about the concert — which began in the early afternoon and lasted until almost 11 p.m. — critics were not hard to find this week.
Some complained the concert was too long and did not feature enough playing time for the marquee acts like the Boston Pops and Gladys Knight while others complained the event wasn’t worth the amount of planning and work that went on behind the scenes.
Still others pointed to the solid — but not spectacular —attendance figures as evidence there was not enough to justify blocking off Ocean Park on most of one of the busiest weekends of the year. Earlier in the week, organizers at Festival Network, the company that sponsored the festival, predicted crowds between 5,000 and 7,000.
As of yesterday, concert organizers had yet to release final figures, although most people associated with the event had pinned the number down to between 4,000 and 5,200. Rick White, vice president for Festival Network and senior producer for the Martha’s Vineyard Festival, said earlier this week that attendance met, if not exceeded his expectations.
But John Early, a member of the board of directors for Vineyard House, one of three nonprofits that bought tickets from Festival Network and sold them at a marked-up rate for fund-raising purposes, said the event was somewhat disappointing.
“We didn’t do as good as we hoped. It was the first year we partnered with [Festival Network], and we knew there was going to be a learning curve. But overall it was a bit of a letdown,” he said.
Vineyard House, Friends of Oak Bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard YMCA purchased premium tickets from Festival Network for $135 and repackaged them with premium seating and catered food, reselling the tickets for $350 each. The nonprofits also sold 10 premium tables at a cost of $10,000 each.
All the tables were sold before the concert, although sales for the premium seats were not as brisk as many had hoped. Estimates indicate each of the nonprofits made about $200,000.
But by far the biggest complaint about the concert was the price of general admission tickets, which sold for $75 in advance and $85 at the gate.
A number of critical comments were posted by Gazette readers on the newspaper Web site this week (mvgazette.com).
The response from the business community was equally mixed. Peter Martell, owner of the Wesley Hotel, said he was booked solid long before the concert, although he noted that was typical of the second weekend of August.
Mike Santoro, managing partner of Season’s Eatery and Pub and the Lookout Tavern, reported slow sales. Going on numbers from last year, Mr. Santoro ordered 100 cases of water for the four booths he operated inside the park: a nonalcoholic beverage tent, a sushi tent, a chowder and lobster bisque tent and a beer booth. But he said he only went through about 30 cases.
“The people just weren’t there . . . I expected more,” he said.
Selectman Kerry Scott, who pushed for town counsel to research legal questions about the concert and use of Ocean Park in April, said the amount of sacrifice for the event wasn’t worth it. Organizers will pay $1 to the town for every ticket sold.
“Let’s say they sold 4,000 tickets and town gets $4,000 — does that constitute a clear public benefit?” Ms. Scott said. “I like the fact that world-renowned musical acts play in our town. But look at the toll on Ocean Park, look at the fact the town loses Ocean Park for all of one day and parts of two others . . . ask the question, is it worth it?”
She continued: “When I sit in Ocean Park and watch this concert on the Jumbo-Tron, I admit it’s kind of thrilling. But I also think it’s overdone. It has always seemed to me this just isn’t a Vineyard event. It was different when the Pops played in the Tabernacle . . . it was simpler.”
The one thing that everyone agreed on was that town employees, including members of the police, wastewater and highway departments and emergency medical technicians did an outstanding job maintaining order and clearing the scene when the concert was over.
At Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, there were laudatory remarks all around. “Everyone is reviewing the performance of Gladys Knight,” Mr. DiOrio said, “but there was no question about the performance of our workers. They were superlative.”