– Woodstock 50
Woodstock 50 organizers say they have recruited a “world-class team of experts” including Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced, the entertainment production arm of Branson’s Virgin Group, to consult on an “expedited schedule” for the proposed Aug. 16-18 festival at Vernon Downs racino in New York. They have called for a community “open house” tonight and another tomorrow morning in the run-up to a likely final stand before the Town of Vernon board tomorrow night.
The involvement of Branson’s entertainment arm, even if in only a consultant role, seems to give a shot of adrenaline to the cultural touchstone’s 50th anniversary event, which is in desperate need of a Hail Mary effort and would be an on-brand move, however risky, for the British entrepreneur. It’s not immediately clear what the group’s level of involvement is, but locals may soon find out.
As with everything else Woodstock 50-related, the public invitation to “meet the team and preview a proposal” at Vernon Downs Casino Hotel comes at the last minute, with one meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight and another for tomorrow morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Woodstock 50 seeks an administrative permit from the Town of Vernon to host the three-day festival at Vernon Downs next month. It’s already appealing permit denials by the town’s planning and code enforcement boards and has another formal presentation before the Town of Vernon board scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Vernon Town Hall, to which the public is invited.
“The original Woodstock prevailed against all odds because of the determination of the founders and we hope that, with the help of the people of Vernon, history can repeat itself and turn Woodstock 50 into a great American comeback story,” said Greg Peck, co-owner of Woodstock 50. “We purchased the rights from the founders to put on Woodstock 50 because of our belief in what the Festival stands for. We have put enormous care and thought into our security, safety, traffic and medical plan and are eager to show the officials and residents of Vernon that this Festival will be not only memorable and historic, but peaceful and safe for everyone involved.”
A press release issued this morning touts music festivals “a boon for the local economies where they are held” and cites Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, saying the event has pumped an estimated $56 million into the regional economy.
“Woodstock 50 would be no different,” the statement reads. “If permits are secured, Woodstock 50 could foresee hiring local residents to help with ticketing, security, logistical support, transportation, set up, break down and clean up. Peck and Gural said they have discussed holding annual Woodstock 50 events at Vernon Downs in the future.”
To sweeten the deal, Gural said he is prepared to make a contribution to local non-profit organizations from the proceeds of the festival just as he has done in other communities where he operates. The announcement reveals that on July 19, Gural is to donate $500,000 to local non-profits in Nichols, N.Y., the home of Tioga Downs.
Peck said Woodstock 50 would also like to establish a committee of local residents to identify and invite certain local vendors onto the site during Woodstock 50. The committee would also be in charge of managing a VIP lounge for local residents and guests.
Peck said the committee also could help identify a community project such as a playground or children’s recreational center that Woodstock 50 could leave as a “thank you” to the people of Vernon.
“We see the Town of Vernon as our partners in putting on this Festival,” Peck said. “We can’t do it without their help and want the Festival to be a great source of community pride. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the experience.”
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for Vernon Downs and the Town of Vernon to be part of history,” said Gural, a real estate developer who also runs harness tracks at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey and Tioga Downs in southern New York. “We have long dreamed of hosting music festivals at Vernon Downs as a way of shoring up the long-term economic viability of the operation. Woodstock 50 would be the beginning of a tremendous legacy that would help secure jobs today and for future generations.”