2015-04-30 / Front Page

Summer Concert Series Lost

By Tom Walsh

The promoter of two May concerts at Fort Adams State Park during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover has scrapped plans for further concerts at the park until mid-August at the earliest.

Newport Waterfront Events will also stage the long-popular Chowder Cookoff on Saturday, June 6, on the North Lawn at Fort Adams. The cookoff, formerly sponsored by the Newport Yachting Center, was a downtown summer staple for more than 20 years.

Although the state Properties Committee on Tuesday, April 28, approved a Newport Waterfronts Events proposal for two more concerts, one June 4 and another on either June 30 or July 1, Michele Maker Palmieri, president and CEO of Newport Waterfront Events, said the approval came too late for her to find suitable artists for those dates.

And, Palmieri said, she is talking to Providence officials about promoting concerts outdoors at India Point Park in that city.

Palmieri got the Newport City Council’s approval on Feb. 11 for as many as ten 2015 concerts at Fort Adams. However, because the fort is a state park, she also needed approvals from the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the state Properties Committee.

“We were hoping to keep all of the events in Newport,” Palmieri commented. She said that late August is all that is available now for this summer at Fort Adams because in July and most of August the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals have control of the fort and its grounds.

Palmieri said she hopes to hold three to six concerts in Providence from July through October.

Newport Waterfront Events, which formerly operated as part of the Newport Yachting Center, was not warmly welcomed by Fort Adams neighbors when the organization first announced months ago that it hoped to move summer concerts that were formerly held downtown to the fort.

“We said this is a residential zone and that night concerts would raise noise and traffic issues,” said Third Ward City Councilor Kathryn E. Leonard, who lives about a mile and a half from Fort Adams.

Palmieri’s company will be promoting two May concerts that coincide with the Volvo Race stopover May 5-17. The first of these is scheduled for Saturday, May 9 and will feature reggae music. The second is set for Thursday, May 14 and will feature a “Magenta Music Night.”

Both concerts are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and end by 10 p.m., Palmieri said.

Leonard said the committee initially wanted to grant just one concert date but decided to approve two concerts to give promoters enough time to arrange for a second. However, she said, the panel also warned that if there are significant complaints from neighbors, then permission for future performances could be withheld.

“The committee totally listened,” she said. “The big problem the neighborhood has with it is the monitoring of noise and traffic.”

Richard Nagle, executive director of the Fort Adams Trust, said he believes that allowing the public to use Fort Adams, a significant national historic landmark, for events such as these is an important aspect of an overall strategy to inform people of the fort’s historic value. He said such events also help the Fort Adams Trust to gain new contributors who help to support and maintain the fort.

The Trust receives $3.50 for each ticket sold, he said.

“We had 10 concerts here in 2014,” Nagle said, adding that with the exception of the larger Jazz and Folk festivals, the other concerts were smaller and did not generate either noise or traffic complaints. “Certainly the Fort Adams Trust and its directors want to be good neighbors in Newport,” Nagle added. As for the larger concerts, Nagle said, “We would not want to do that to the neighbors every other weekend.”

Nagle said he did not expect the proposed Newport Waterfront Events concerts to cause a problem, especially since they are held inside the fort walls rather than on the north lawn, outside the fort, where the jazz and folk festivals are conducted. And, he said, the smaller concerts are not likely to create a “huge” traffic problem.

Nagle said he and the rest of the Trust are sensitive to neighbor concerns.

“I think over time we would like to make the neighbors feel they are part of the conversation,” he said. However, he added, “Sometimes we may respectfully disagree.”

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