There shall be no beach concerts on July 4th weekend in Wildwood this year.
Such is the city’s decision after a nearly seven-month battle between city leadership and several Wildwood business organizations about whether or not an Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, concert should be held on the beach during one of Wildwood’s busiest summer weekends. The decision by Wildwood Board of Commissioners on Feb 11 does not mean a beach concert couldn’t happen, just not on Fourth of July weekend.
“Due to the community, the constituents, and the business people, [the commissioners] just felt that July 4th was busy enough without adding any more burden or activity to the area,” said commissioner Peter Byron.
City officials and the concert’s promoter, BeachGlow: Concerts for Charity, Inc., were hoping to repeat last year’s success, when the concert attracted 7,000 people to the seaside resort on July 4th weekend. BeachGlow was hoping to double the number of patrons this year.
But not everyone was excited for the concert’s return. Jack and Will Morey, who own several entertainment piers along the Wildwood boardwalk, launched a campaign to block this year’s concert. The Moreys and several business groups on the island – including the Boardwalk Special Improvement District, the Wildwood Business Improvement District, the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Wildwood Hotel Motel Association –wrote a letter to Mayor Ernie Troiano, Jr., after last year’s concerts (there were two EDM concerts last summer by two different promoters; only BeachGlow is involved this year) detailing their complaints and asking the city to move the concert to another, less busy weekend and to more isolated spot on the beach.
“The concern rose that during the height of the season there are millions of folks coming to the Wildwoods to stay at the hotels, to go on the boards,” said Patrick Rosenello, executive director of the Boardwalk Special Improvement District and the Wildwood Business Improvement District. “Families are coming down specifically for that purpose, and due to the public location of the concerts, the concerts were greatly interfering with the visitor’s quiet enjoyment of the of the resort.”
Everybody put your F***ing hands up
Arguably, the business community’s biggest complaint was the frequency and volume of swearing by the concert’s DJs. “I’d say the language is the one [problem] that is on the loudspeaker,” Jack Morey said. Wildwood has been trying in recent years to promote itself as a family destination, he said, and businesses fear that swearing echoing over the boardwalk, with children and parents strolling the shops and amusements, will drive visitors away.
On this point, the city and promoter agree. BeachGlow included a condition in DJs’ riders, this year, informing them that the promoter would pull the plug on any DJ or performer that uttered foul language over the PA system.
Spike in arrests
But that is where the agreements stop. There are several points on which the city and the business community disagree, such as the number of arrests and disturbances that resulted from last year’s BeachGlow concert.
The Moreys quote an article from The Wildwood Leader, where then-police chief Steven Long reported that there were 37 arrests, “most of which were for underage drinking or minors attempting to purchase alcohol,” at last year’s BeachGlow concert. Current police chief Robert Regalbuto, however, said at a commissioner’s meeting on January 28th that there were only 20 arrests at last year’s concert – eight adults and 12 minors – “mostly for underage intoxication.”
The difference in arrests may be the result of multiple agencies, including state police and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control division, making arrests and not being included in the Wildwood Police Department’s tally, according to Morey’s lawyer Steven Fram.
In both an Open Public Records Act request and a letter sent to Mayor Troiano, the Moreys listed several police reports that described highly intoxicated teenagers, including a young woman who was vomiting on herself, another young woman that was laying in her own feces, and a young man that was wondering half naked and visibly intoxicated.
Still, Commissioner Byron said that the event was not as bad as the Morey’s depicted. “It wasn’t a bad event at all,” he said. “If it was, we wouldn’t have brought it back this year.” He accused the Moreys of “misrepresenting the facts.”
“This event did not contribute to any issues whatsoever that weren’t inherent to a normal summer day [in Wildwood],” Byron said.
Concerns over drugs
While the business community stands by their position that the concert should be moved to another date and/or location, the Moreys have developed a stricter stance on EDM, saying that it has no place in Wildwood at all.
They have articles from the New York Times, Miami Herald and other publications that detail the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in the EDM scene. Several EDM concerts have faced scrutiny and potential shut downs across the country because of drugs and crime, including the Electric Zoo Festival on Randall’s Island in New York City – where two people died of overdoses in 2013 – and Electric Adventure in Seaside Heights – which saw 42 arrests and 34 people treated for overdoses.
In a prepared statement at the commissioner’s meeting on January 28, BeachGlow asserted that the Wildwood EDM concert does not have a drug problem, and that their concert is not like other EDM concerts around the country.
“BeachGlow is unique in the EDM scene, and part of our mission at BeachGlow is to try to turn that stereotype around and set an example for others to follow,” said Heather Kunkel, executive vice president of BeachGlow in the prepared statement. “At our events, everyone entering the perimeter is screened, and we enforce a zero tolerance policy for drugs and underage drinking, both at the gate, and inside our event.”
Still, Wildwood might get its EDM concert this summer anyway. The city has floated June 13 to the promoter as a new date. However, no contracts have yet been signed.