BARNARD WAY — Three and a half days after the New World F.E.S.T. street fair’s unexpected closure, the producer and City staff are still shaking their heads, wondering what happened and how everyone involved will get paid.
The event, which had been in the works since the beginning of the year, was supposed to run from Friday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 9.
Instead, all vendors and performers were asked to leave at 3 p.m. Saturday when essential personnel like security officers packed up and left, according to a participant.
That left producer Howard Mauskopf with ticket sales to refund, food vendors to repay, bills with City Hall to settle and not enough money to do it all.
Every event producer comes into a weekend like this with a certain level of capital to cover costs, Mauskopf said. Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t enough.
“It’s sad on a lot of levels, and we’re trying to figure out what we need to do,” he said.
New World F.E.S.T. was slated to be a festival that put the best of eco-friendly science and technology on display next to live musical performances and artistic demonstrations and products.
It featured sand sculptors next to green builders, cleaning solutions next to Sparky the Dragon Oven that cooked pizza in his cavernous belly.
Fourteen different artists were going to play across three different days — including one band brought in from the Philippines — and five eco-themed films were scheduled to play for curious audiences.
According to permit applications delivered to City Hall, the event was expected to attract between 10,000 and 15,000 participants.
Durian Songbird, owner of Dancing Wings, a shop which makes decorative wings for ceremonial and artistic dances, estimated it was closer to 200.
The event itself seemed well-organized, and all the right infrastructure was in place.
“The only thing missing was people,” Songbird said.
Songbird was an atypical vendor. He heard about the event, and signed up at the last minute, paying for his three-day booth rental in cash. There’s been no offer of a refund at this point.
“I’m not holding out that I’m going to see that again,” he said.
It’s unclear what the producer owes City Hall for the event. According to the application, there were almost $15,000 in costs for site rental, tents, beach maintenance and container fees.
On top of that, the application required two police officers and one fire safety officer each day, along with one traffic safety officer on Friday and two on both Saturday and Sunday.
Overnight security was required, and the Building and Safety Division also had to give out permits for the musical stage.
Each department coordinated independently with organizers, and some bills got paid before the event, and others were postponed until after, making it hard to track down the total.
The shortfall on the weekend is “substantial,” Mauskopf said, although he did not want to define it for fear of hurting his position with City Hall.
Mauskopf and his team began planning the event at the beginning of the year, and received the first thumbs up in February. Initially, the festival was supposed to run in late June, but it conflicted with an event put on by the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, according to the event file, and was rescheduled.
They’d done a great deal of research on the topic, traveling to various green events to glean ideas before deciding to move it out of the sterile environment of a trade show and onto the beach juxtaposed with artists and interactive events.
“Maybe the truth of the matter is that an event like this can only draw hardcore green folks, and the message isn’t ready to go mainstream yet,” he said. “It’s too early, we’re still shell shocked.”
Mauskopf will be meeting with City Hall to determine what to do about municipal fees that have not yet been assessed. In the meantime, he hopes to pay back those who bought tickets and the food vendors.
“Right now, we’re fielding a large amount of inquiries, calls and concerns and staying communicative to figure out what we can do once everyone’s heard from us and knows that our intent is honorable,” Mauskopf said.