The Recorder – Northfield Selectboard hears first details of Christian music festival
NORTHFIELD – The likely host of a Christian music festival expected to attract up to 8,500 attendees met Selectboard for the first time on Tuesday to discuss initial planning for a special permit application.
Organizers of SoulFest, most recently held at Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, New Hampshire, plan to move the event to Northfield’s DL Moody Center for its 25th year in 2023. The festival’s website says that it will be held on Thursday 3 August. , until Saturday August 5th.
Although a SoulFest representative did not attend this initial hearing, Moody Center Vice President and Chief Operating Officer James Spencer spoke to the Selectboard about the festival‘s plans, as approval a special permit from the Selectboard is required. Although only the Selectboard asked Spencer questions at this first meeting, residents will be invited to ask questions at a Selectboard meeting on November 22.
Many residents have taken to social media to express their concerns about SoulFest after its plans to move to Northfield were published by New Hampshire press briefings ahead of the final festival at Gunstock Mountain Resort in August. As no permit application has yet been filed, the announcement took the city by surprise. SoulFest is already selling Northfield festival tickets at thesoulfest.com and announced several confirmed musical acts.
“Pre-sale tickets have rubbed me and the citizens of Northfield the wrong way,” said Selectboard member Mary Bowen.
Spencer responded by saying that the Moody Center and SoulFest are separate organizations and he regrets the presale happened.
“I understand this is a breach of trust,” he said.
Selection committee member Alex Meisner warned Spencer towards the end of the meeting that other organizations have come to Northfield in the past hoping to hold events, but “didn’t do their homework”.
“They embarrassed themselves,” Meisner said. “History repeats itself – let’s take that into consideration.”
Speaking about the plans for the festival, Spencer said there would be a main stage to the east of the Moody property, with smaller stages and around 30 other tents placed around the property which is shared with the Thomas Aquinas College off Main Street (Route 63). According to Spencer, the event is estimated to have a maximum of 8,500 attendees, but space on campus can hold up to 10,000. If the event were as large as Spencer predicts, there would be around 3,000. more participants than the Green River Festival.
Selection committee vice-chairman Heath Cummings expressed concern about the number of people per square foot. As planning continues, Spencer said he would provide measurements for the board, but he said he believed the area around the main stage was around 4,000 square feet.
The festival’s security system is managed by a group of volunteers called the “Peace Patrol”. They are unarmed or untrained and act as “room monitors”, according to Spencer. Festival organizers would also pay local police to be present at the event.
According to Spencer, the festival had very few incidents at the New Hampshire site. He noted that there is no drug or alcohol consumption allowed at the festival. Spencer presented the Selectboard with recordings of trouble at previous festivals, most of which stemmed from dehydration and heat exhaustion.
“Traffic alone is a big question mark,” said selection committee chair Barbara “Bee” Jacque.
Spencer explained that the festival would need around 3,000 parking spaces. There are about 250 on campus and an additional 800 parking spots at the drive-in theater. He said festival organizers will need to conduct a traffic study and find more off-site parking.
SoulFest organizers will also need to discuss plumbing issues raised by the Selectboard with the Board of Sewer Commissioners. Spencer said the festival plans to have 60 portable toilets with the option of showers.
Asked about the revenue the festival will bring to the Moody Center, Spencer said, “It’s not a lucrative event for the Moody Center.” He said the festival would break even or make a slight profit. The Moody Center hopes to host this festival because it “aligns with our mission,” Spencer continued.
Should the Selectboard grant SoulFest its special permit, Spencer argued that holding such an event would benefit the city as it would allow attendees to become more familiar with the area and its attractions, with the idea of returning. in the future.
Further discussion will continue on November 22.
Bella Levavi can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4579.