Festival honoring Tom Petty wins approval

The Gainesville City Commission approved an agreement Thursday to host the Full Moon Fever Festival in Depot Park for the next three years.

The two-day music and arts festival, which honors rocker and Gainesville-native Tom Petty, replaces the annual Tom Petty Birthday Bash concert in October. The agreement, which lays out the terms and fees for the festival, was approved by the commission as part of the consent agenda for Thursday’s regular meeting.

However, in trying to pass the consent agenda, commissioners ended up discussing elements of the agreement and hearing additional public comments on the festival as members of the public urged that the item be taken off the consent agenda. Alex Levy, the festival’s producer, also answered questions about the festival during the agenda debate.

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“Effectively this has been taken off consent because we seem to be having a full-throated discussion of it,” Commissioner Harvey Ward said during the agenda discussion. “I don’t know that would be different if we put it on the regular agenda. We are already doing it.”

Scheduled for Oct. 22-23, 2022, the festival expects to bring 6,000 people to Depot Park for each day of the festival, but set-up and tear-down activities will close portions of the park for six days starting on Oct. 19, according to the special event application and the agreement memo.

Levy said that during the six days, the festival intends to work with the city to keep “as much of our footprint open to the public as long as safety allows.”

“We are moving forward in good faith,” Levy said via Zoom. “We look forward to working with the surrounding neighborhoods and the surrounding communities and the city to make this an amazing and safe event. I hope that we can move forward.”

When Red Light Management first requested in August to change the Birthday Bash from an open, free-of-charge community event to a fenced-off, ticketed event, the city didn’t have rental rates or policies in place that addressed private, paid events.

Red Light Management negotiated with the city manager to establish the rates and the terms for a three-year contract, Assistant City Manager Fred Murray told the commission Thursday. The festival contract is considered a pilot agreement for the city and can be cancelled any time after the first year.

The city will charge the festival $15,000 for the park closure in 2022, $17,500 in 2023 and $20,000 in 2024, according to the memo.

During the Thursday consent agenda discussion, Commissioner David Arreola questioned how the city arrived at the rates for the park closure.

“It’s fine that we want to set up new ways to rent out the park,” Arreola said. “I am OK with that. I am OK with the festival itself. What I have an issue with is not really having a clear answer as to how the fees were negotiated and also authorizing to sign a contract that I do not have in front of me.”

The consent agenda motion was amended to note that the full contract for the festival would come back to the commission for approval when it is ready to be signed.

“This is the direction we gave,” Mayor Lauren Poe said. “We said, ‘Go have a negotiation and bring something back to the commission for our approval’ and that’s what they have done.”

Tickets for the event are expected to range from $25 to $230. Levy also said that they have committed to giving 15 percent of the net proceeds to Gainesville-area non-profit organizations.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for Gainesville, for our community, to showcase our city, to help support our local businesses and to help support our local artists,” Poe said. “I understand some trepidation and some apprehension. We just need to work through those things between now and next year.”

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