In just over a day, Long Beach residents collected 750 signatures on a petition urging the city to scrap plans to cancel the festival portion of the surfing extravaganza, but it still may not be enough to save the music.
Businesses leaders and residents were scrambling late this week to come up with ideas to continue the festival portion of the Quiksilver Pro New York surfing contest in the wake of Hurricane Irene. But it may be too late, they were told.
Michael Kerr, president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, met with City Manager Charles Theofan on Friday morning to come up with a possible alternative this weekend. Kerr suggested bringing in the city’s portable bandstand at National Boulevard and drawing local bands to perform.
“I understand that the city has had a lot to overcome this week, but we have to be resilient,” Kerr said. “We went through 9/11 and New Yorkers responded and rebounded. A lot of people are looking forward to the concerts and they will not have them.
“We have to rise above it all,” he added. “We want to have a festive atmosphere.”
The surfing event, which runs from Sept. 4-15, was expected to draw 20,000 to 25,000 spectators each day and be a big boost for local businesses. The music festival and other side events such as skateboarding were expected to add to the huge draws.
“I want my merchants to be able to survive,” said Kerr. “I want them to do well these two weeks to bring them through what could be a rough winter. We’ve got to do whatever we can to make it more festive.”
It would also help local shops make up for the havoc wreaked by the hurricane on the region.
After Quiksilver and Theofan agreed to cancel the festival portion on Tuesday, Jason Alegria and Frank Caputo launched a petition drive in a last-ditch effort to save the festival.
They began the drive on Wednesday morning and by 1 p.m. on Thursday delivered a petition bearing 750 hand-written signatures to Theofan. Alegria said the signatures were all from Long Beach residents, business owners, managers and employees.
“We all support the continuation of the festival and the music portion of the 2011 Quiksilver Pro,” said Alegria, who works in a local cafe. “Even though many have been affected by the storm, the festival is a great way for the city to recover.”
Before the hurricane struck, such groups as Flaming Lips, Taking Back Sunday and Interpol were scheduled to perform.
But when Alegria and Caputo met with Theofan on Thursday, they were told it was too late to put together any musical acts.
In an open letter to the community on Tuesday, Theofan wrote that almost 4,000 residents were still without power and could remain out until Sunday, more than 30 trees were downed throughout the community, the Long Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road possibly won’t run for three more days, and residents were still suffering from a storm that caused major damage.
Theofan did not return a call for comment on Friday.
Alegria said he was extremely disappointed that time was running out.
“I would have liked them not to have cancelled it so quickly,” said Alegria. “I would have liked to see them salvage any portion of the festival. I would have liked to have seen logistically what they could have done, and not to have it all or nothing.”