Rain and wind delay Something in the Water’s start
Area hotels, airport see brisk business while restaurateurs wait out weather
Rain and high winds delayed the start of Pharrell Williams’ Virginia Beach music festival Something in the Water by about four hours Friday, leaving fans and businesses waiting for the weather to clear.
Scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. Friday, the festival was delayed until 5 p.m. Instead of being filled with throngs of music fans as expected, the Oceanfront area was quiet all day Friday, except for the presence of workers at the festival site between Second and 17th streets.
“You can tell there’s activity happening, but there’s no crowds of people yet,” Kate Pittman, executive director of the Vibe Creative District, said Friday afternoon. “Everyone’s staying home.”
“The weather’s definitely dampened spirits,” Virginia Beach Restaurant Association Executive Director Martha Davenport said Friday afternoon during the delay. “You can’t predict Mother Nature.”
Nevertheless, there appeared to be a figurative rainbow at the end of the rainy day, with Virginia Beach Hotel Association President John Zirkle Jr. saying that “we’ve seen some last-minute pickup” in hotel business. Area hotels were at 85% occupancy on Friday and were expected to sell out on Saturday, said Zirkle, who is also corporate director of operations for Harmony Hospitality and general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Virginia Beach.
Norfolk International Airport Executive Director Mark Perryman said there was an uptick in activity at the airport this week ahead of the festival, with about 14,000 passengers coming and going on Thursday, up from regular travel patterns. He noticed a few more corporate jets than normal, as well. Perryman advised the businesses within the airport to be prepared with additional staff and stock, and he expects that Sunday and Monday will be busier than normal, too, as festival attendees head out of town.
For businesses on the ground, such as local restaurants, much of the three-day festival’s success will depend on “the weather and the enthusiasm of the people,” Davenport said Thursday. “If the weather’s good or decent enough, people are going to come.”
Andy McGinley, owner of Richmond-based Momma’s BBQ, which was set up in the festival grounds, said the rain delay didn’t bother him, and he still expected to make plenty of money. “People paid too much for these tickets to skip it for a little rain,” he said. “We’re here and ready to go. [The crowd] is gonna go from zero to 60.”
Next to Momma’s BBQ was Cups Up, a food truck based out of Virginia Beach’s Beach House 757 on 19th and Atlantic. “This is probably the biggest festival we’ve worked so far,” said Chef Breed Mathews, who predicted his truck’s revenue will “probably go through the roof.”
A manager at Beach Bully BBQ, located a few blocks from the Oceanfront on 19th Street, was just happy the roads around the restaurant weren’t blocked for Something in the Water this year, as they were when the event debuted in Virginia Beach in 2019. Around lunchtime Friday, manager Cino Farrales wasn’t too worried about the inclement weather keeping away customers who might have come from the festival. “We are hoping for a big crowd, but [from] our past experience with Something in the Water, we had nothing,” Farrales said.
At Lost Planet, an interactive art museum on Atlantic Avenue between 19th and 20th streets, business was slow Friday because of the weather, but manager Shaniqua Lyons was hopeful that traffic would pick up over the weekend. “We think it’s pretty cool to see people come here,” she said, adding that SITW “brings a lot more people to Virginia Beach in a positive way.”
A few blocks down, at Lotus Fashion, manager Vicki Kowalczyk said the last time SITW was held in Virginia Beach, business was slow, but she hopes this year will go better. She noted however that festival attendees are more likely to spend their money on food and beverages than on retail shopping.
Pittman said that the festival was incorporating and collaborating with a lot more businesses this year, with events and presences all the way up to 31st Street.
The weather outlook for the rest of the festival appears better. Eswar Iyer, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Wakefield said that while Friday’s weather had seen wind gusts of 15 to 20 miles per hour — below a threshold that would present a danger to performers or audience members — Saturday’s forecast is expected to be sunny, with highs in the 70s. However, there is a possibility of showers in the afternoon Sunday, the festival’s final day.