Something fishy is going on in Montauk this summer, and locals are unhappy that it has nothing to do with fish. A July 13 press release from WordHampton Public Relations announced a three-day “music, art, film, yoga and fashion” event to be held on the grounds of Sole East, a resort right in the middle of a residential area that has, despite its best efforts, already pissed off some of its neighbors.
The “Escape to Montauk” party has been billed as a “boutique event” rather than a festival, as was an event backed by the same organizers at the Shinnecock Indian Reservation last summer—but that hasn’t quelled some fears that things will get out of control.
With a website still intact advertising the 2011 event, there are pictures of vendors, tents, elaborate stages, hipsters dressed as Adam and Eve handing out condoms, bubbles, bubbles, and for whatever reason, lots of stuffed panda bears. The festival also introduced “glamping,” which is basically (not really) camping in a rather glamorous tent for tons of money.
According to the release, attendance at Escape to Montauk will be “limited daily”—although the extent of the limits remain unclear—and access will be free. “VIP wristbands,” not yet for sale, will ensure entry and discounts on food, drink and retail. The event is being promoted by Rocco Gardner, a promoter who has organized similar festivals, including Escape to New York.
In a rather bizarre twist, Chris Jones, a partner at Sole East who has recently focused his efforts on a new venture, the Montauk Beach House, blasted out a press release on the heels of the WordHampton announcement. Crafted by his own public relations maven, WordHampton expat Suzee Foster, the release stated that Jones finds the event to be “totally inappropriate.”
With “a deep respect for the community and the need to conserve our quality of life,” Jones wanted Montaukers to know that he has learned his lesson, after an attempt—and ultimate failure—at organizing a festival of a similar magnitude last year. The MTK “music to know” festival was to be held at the East Hampton Airport last summer, but the plug was pulled at the last minute, as ticket sales were less than robust.
But Montauk residents are calling Jones out on his assertion that he has “relinquished his operational role” at Sole East.
“What’s with Jones, owner, having ‘no operational’ control?” Asked Mary Anzalone, a Montauk resident and bartender at Liar’s Saloon. “Why did he think a three-day height-of-the-season concert was a good idea last year?”
Samantha Romanowski, a partner at Kailani, said, “I live in that neighborhood—where are the cars going to park?”
Residents of East Lake Drive might have some answers. After a fourth of July party at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy got out of control, the event was shut down—but not before thousands of people flooded the property. The traffic situation was so gnarly that an injured person reportedly had to be transported via police car to an ambulance waiting at the end of the road.
Bethany Borrero, a clerk at the East Hampton Town Fire Marshal’s office, offered that “no one in here knows anything about it,” when asked about Escape to Montauk on Monday—implying that no mass gathering permits have been applied for.
According to Johnson Nordlinger, Executive Assistant to the Town Supervisor, such an event “doesn’t necessarily need the town board’s approval.”
Statements like these are likely to ruffle the feathers of Montauk residents. As Anzalone quipped, sooner than later, “we’ll be needing an escape FROM Montauk.”