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Patriotic Festival move from Virginia Beach is another blow to businesses, taxpayers

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Posted at 12:43 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 12:43:41-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Mike Standing, who owns Waterman’s Surfside Grille on Atlantic Avenue and 5th Street at the Oceanfront, took time Monday remembering a long-standing tradition on the beach.

The boardwalk near 5th Street would normally be packed with people for the Patriotic Festival the weekend after Memorial Day.

“They had vendors,” said Standing. “They had specialty tents, other entertainment, and it was just alive with people. When you get out on the beach and the boats are all lined up there, it’s just a really exciting time.”

The Patriotic Festival honors the military while bringing together locals and tourists with music from nationally known artists.

“It’s a feather in our cap to say, 'Look at this festival we have among others,' like Something in the Water,” Standing said. “When we say we have these events, it makes us more dynamic and a well-rounded city.”

But next Memorial Day weekend, the event — that’s been canceled twice because of COVID-19 — won’t be back at the beach. Instead, organizers say they’re moving it to Norfolk.

“My first reaction was - 'Another one is gone?'” said Shane Carr of Virginia Beach.

The move comes just two weeks after Pharrell Williams pulled Something in the Water from Virginia Beach, and after the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon announced it's hanging up its running shoes in the Resort City.

In 2019, Something in the Water generated more than $24 million for Hampton Roads. The Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon generated an estimated $12 million in revenue for Virginia Beach in 2018.

An analysis done by city officials showed in 2018, the economic impact for the Patriotic Festival generated an estimated $6.5 million in revenue from hotels, food and entertainment.

The impact will be felt on businesses and the city as a whole.

“I congratulate Norfolk; they’re very blessed,” Standing said. “The Patriotic Festival is incredible not only for their residents, but it’s a sincere appreciation for the military. But I think we have to look at ourselves as a city and say ok, what went wrong? What can we do to better ourselves and let’s get out there and do a better job of attracting businesses and special events and maintaining them.”

It’s also a hit for folks like Shane Carr, who’s lived in the resort city for more than a decade. These events help cut the tax rate by 10 cents for property owners.

“I think everything definitely helps,” Carr said. “I think on a higher level though, the additional revenue that a festival like that brings in, not even thinking about the taxes, is a huge boom for city, so I think losing out on that is a pretty big deal.”

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said it couldn’t accommodate the move of the Patriotic Festival to Memorial Day weekend rather than the weekend after as originally planned.

The festival’s organizer said the cost of cancellation insurance and the need for indoor space played a role in the decision.