Selectmen approve expanded Town Party

Scot Weicker outlines the expanded Greenwich Town Party plans.

Scot Weicker outlines the expanded Greenwich Town Party plans.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, let alone the start of the new year, but organizers already have their minds firmly on next May, when the Greenwich Town Party is slated to return bigger than ever.

But that’s not just a promoter’s hype. The party is expected to literally be bigger than ever after the Board of Selectmen unanimously granted permission to use the Havemeyer Field off Greenwich Avenue as a second location to go along with the Greenwich Town Party’s traditional location at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. Organizers told the selectmen that they expect this to allow the number of tickets sold to the event, which is slated for May 24, the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, to be 10,000, double what was allowed this past year.

This second location for the town party would run simultaneously with the one in the park and be an all-day event.

“We want this to be an ongoing event for the residents and families and local businesses of Greenwich,” Scot Weicker, president of SBW Events Group in Old Greenwich and a chief organizer of the party, told the selectmen at their Nov. 14 meeting. “We look forward to continuing on in 2014 for an event that would really touch more individuals than we ever have before.”

Mr. Weicker said this means there would be two main stages, one at each location, but it was unclear yet if there would be two headlining acts or simply one major headliner at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park that would be simulcast over a video screen to Havemeyer to close out the show.

Under questioning from the board, Mr. Weicker said he had reviewed the plans with Chief of Police James Heavey and town Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Sicilano, both of whom attended the meeting and confirmed their departments’ approvals. Mr. Weicker said the party organizers had “agreed to all their respective comments, concerns, questions, and suggestions.”

“I can’t thank them enough for the time and effort they have spent to meet with me on a number of occasions to give me their valuable input,” Mr. Weicker said.

This is the second attempt to expand the Town Party, which is put together by Greenwich resident Ray Dalio at no cost to the town. Last year the party attempted to expand onto Greenwich Avenue and involve the local businesses, but concerns over the number of police officers that would be needed for adequate coverage of the event put those plans on hold, and a reduced “satellite location” in the Havemeyer Building parking lot also had to be scrapped because of rain, wind and cold weather the day of the party.

Mr. Weicker called that the “trifecta of bad weather” and said the Greenwich Town Party would go forward this year rain or shine. Tickets will go on sale next year and are again expected to sell out quickly. Due to the private money and the sponsors behind the event, which is endorsed by the town but is not a town event, tickets can be offered at far reduced rates to try to make it possible for people from all over town to attend.

Chief Heavey said there would be enough police to handle the second location. Mr. Weicker said, in response to the chief’s suggestion, there would be staggered dismissal times from the locations to keep too many people from flowing out at once.

In order to use the Havemeyer Field, Mr. Siciliano insisted there be a cover to protect it from the stage that will be installed there and from all the foot traffic. Selectman David Theis wondered if the stage could be situated over the baseball diamond on the field, but Mr. Siciliano said that could potentially cause too much damage. Instead the diamond will be fenced off to prevent people from walking on it and the main stage will be between the diamond and the track that goes around the field. A local stage will also be set up close to the stairs that lead to the back of Town Hall, and food trucks will be allowed around the track.

Mr. Weicker said that in addition to the live music and food, there would be children’s activities and a business showcase for local businesses to get 10 x 10 space to set up stands to promote themselves. He added that community organizations would also be able to participate in that, as they already do at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park.

“It’s very important for the Greenwich Town Party to support our local community organizations and nonprofits,” Mr. Weicker said.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said protection of the field was a major priority for the town because of the irrigation system that’s there.

“We cannot jeopardize that because of the broader public benefit of it,” Mr. Tesei said.

Mr. Weicker assured him that every measure would be taken to not harm or damage the field every way. People would be able to access the field only through three access points, the stairs coming from Town Hall, walking in from Greenwich Common off the avenue and below the baseball diamond coming from the Board of Education parking lot, which will be used only for sponsors and to provide handicapped accessibility.

Mr. Siciliano said he believed the town was in “good shape” regarding the plans to fence off areas of concern and to accommodate the number of people the organizers wanted.

This will be the fourth annual Greenwich Town Party and the event has been able to bring in some big names as performers, including Paul Simon and James Taylor. Dave Matthews, in the area for a concert, even made a surprise appearance in 2012. Because of those major names, Selectman Drew Marzullo expressed concern about how much of an impact it would have if, instead of 10,000 people, 20,000 people wanted to show up due to the star power of the featured act.

“To attract 10,000 people, the headline, whoever he or she is, is going to have to be someone big, so if it’s announced that it is a Dave Matthews-type, will the Police Department be able to accommodate with the manpower?” Mr. Marzullo said. “If we approve this and then it’s announced that it is Dave Matthews because he’s different, as you know, from James Taylor and different from Metallica, who is different from whatever, will we get 10,000 and then maybe an additional two or three thousand trying to get in?”

Mr. Weicker said that an announcement about the headlining acts will not be made until January or February and insisted he had no idea who was being considered for the event. He said once the act is official he will speak again to Chief Heavey and come back to the Board of Selectmen to update them as well but noted the party’s track record of bringing in talent not of the scale of a Dave Matthews Band or a Metallica. He noted that when Mr. Matthews did appear it was for a brief surprise performance and it was not promoted so it had no impact on the number of people attending.

“We will take every precaution necessary,” Mr. Weicker said. “We have been up front and informative with the chief and we will continue to do so. We’ve done whatever necessary to insure a safe and secure environment for all attendees.”

Chief Heavey said that the department’s approach would be changed if necessary and added the department had the right to stop the event from happening. But both Chief Heavey and Mr. Weicker said they did not anticipate that happening.

“I don’t think that will be necessary at all,” Chief Heavey said. “Once we know who the headliner is, we will address any concerns we might have. We have already worked to make sure we have a significant number of personnel for the staggered closing of the events in Havemeyer and Roger Sherman so we can reuse our people twice at the same event but at different locations.”

All three selectmen gave their enthusiastic support for the party, but the permit granted for the event will be good for only a year. Mr. Tesei said this conditional approval would allow everyone to see how next year’s party would go with the second location and that, if this were to continue, the organizers could then come back next fall to secure another permit. He praised Mr. Weicker and everyone behind the party for finding a way to try to allow more people to attend.

“This is obviously a very unique permit because we’re doing this at dual locations, creating a much broader implication,” Mr. Tesei said. “We haven’t done this before, so having it as conditional for a year will allow us to look more carefully at how well it went.”

Mr. Tesei said he agreed with Chief Heavey that if necessary the permit could be pulled but that he didn’t foresee that happening, noting the Greenwich Town Party’s exemplary track record. Mr. Weicker will appear before the selectmen early next year to update them on the status of the plans.


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