PHOTO: In September of 2017, Pilgrimage Festival at Harlinsdale Park saw crowds in excess of 25,000 to see headliner Justin Timberlake / Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
At Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, the board voted unanimously for a long-term event permit for the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival at Harlinsdale Farm.
Co-founder W. Brandt Wood said the festival has already booked acts for year four, but declined to disclose the lineup when jokingly asked by Mayor Ken Moore.
“Music festivals proliferate around the world nowadays, and yet we have endeavored to create a unique one that befits this community, one that is very good quality of entertainment but run with attention to detail,” Wood said. Co-founder Kevin Griffin, the guitarist of Better Than Ezra, also attended the meeting.
During a work session, aldermen complained about the traffic congestion during the 2017 festival. At-large alderman Clyde Barnhill said he waited along Mack Hatcher Parkway for two hours and 15 minutes while trying to leave the festival.
Ward 2 Alderman Dana McLendon expressed several points of dissatisfaction with what Pilgrimage founders W. Brandt Wood and Kevin Griffin requested in a memo. This included criticism of the on-demand parking, projected performance end time and three weeks of closure for festival setup.
“I’m concerned that it already has outgrown our venue,” McLendon said, while conceding that it was “a great event.”
“It overwhelmed its infrastructure and the enthusiasm for it is going in the same direction again,” he said.
While approximately 25,000 attended the 2017 festival, the projected number on the application for 2018 is 27,500 tickets.
Wood countered the objections, citing a growth period for a festival which began in 2015.
“We signed up for this, but we also signed up for the opportunity to correct it and improve,” he said. “We hope to be around a long time and to get better at this.”
Wood pointed out that while one-third of attendees walked into the venue, the festival encouraged carpooling, by allowing free parking for vehicles with three or more occupants, and even parked 2,500 bikes at the 2017 festival.
The permit will allow the festival a five-year permit, to be reviewed each year by the city board.
McLendon and at-large Alderman Brandy Blanton expressed confusion about the conditions of agreeing to such a long-term permit.
“I am not willing to commit the city to five ‘yes’ votes for five years,” McLendon said.
Monique McCullough, the city’s special events and outreach coordinator, said the city would reserve the right to cancel the agreement each year.
After lengthy discussion during the work session and the meeting, the motion passed unanimously.