Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Voodoo Fest and City Park at odds over date, jeopardizing the 2009 music festival

Posted by Keith Spera, Music writer, The Times-Picayune March 23, 2009 10:39PM

Will the Voodoo Experience, one of New Orleans' major music festivals, disappear from City Park this fall?

The festival's producers announced in February that the 11th annual Voodoo Experience would be in City Park on Halloween weekend, Oct. 30-Nov. 1. That represented a change from Voodoo's original dates of Oct. 23-25.

But then City Park chief operating officer Robert Becker informed Voodoo producer Stephen Rehage that Halloween weekend was unavailable.

"We're booked," Becker said. "That's the whole purpose of advance booking. We're contracted for four weddings and we have a fundraising event. We told (Rehage) that he has to go to the date that Voodoo reserved, and has been for years."

Relive Voodoo Fest 2008: View photos from the music festival!

However, as recently as Feb. 16, City Park's online calendar of events apparently listed Voodoo as scheduled for "Halloween weekend."

Rehage said he believed he had approval from City Park to stage the festival on Halloween weekend. He noted that his company, Rehage Entertainment, has a long and productive history with City Park.

"We've done over 50 events in City Park," he said. "I live across the street from the park. I want Voodoo to be in City Park. But we don't have an option to be there right now."

: Large crowds turned out at the big stages at the Voodoo Music Experience's 10th annual festival last year.

All but one of the 10 previous Voodoo festivals has taken place in City Park. Hurricane Katrina's flooding of the park forced a scaled down version of the 2005 Voodoo to move to Riverview Park between the Audubon Zoo and the Mississippi River.

Rehage declined to elaborate on his options should he not be able to stage the 2009 Voodoo in City Park on Halloween weekend.

Major festivals such as Voodoo generally book headlining bands months in advance and pay sizeable, non-refundable deposits. Once a band is locked in, dates are difficult to change without affecting the routing of an entire tour.

At least one official of a nonprofit organization that raises money for City Park's upkeep believes turning away a high-profile, multimillion-dollar event such as Voodoo in favor of weddings is not a good decision.

"It makes no sense," said attorney Jimmy Fahrenholtz, co-chair of the Friends of City Park membership committee. "We're looking for allies to bring the park back, and we're running off one of the few things that makes sense for the utilization of the park."

Fahrenholtz said that City Park's board of commissioners is slated to meet on Tuesday, March 24.

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