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    A Hard Day’s Night

     

    In this Internet age, news and discontent travels quickly. With the click of a “post” button, Abbey Road on the River announced via their Facebook Page that 2016 would be the last year the Beatles festival (one of the largest in the world) would be held in Louisville:

     

    Later that day, May 25, the Galt House’s Facebook page had this statement:

    There is lively debate in the community about what happened to spur Abbey Road on the River’s possible move. The consensus seems to be that the organizers of AROTR (abbreviated as such for the rest of this article) and the Galt House hadn’t seen eye to eye in for a long time. When the Galt House distributed a flier encouraging guests to book rooms for next year without mentioning AROTR by name, it was “the final issue that kind of came after months and months of differences of opinion,” said AROTR founder and organizer, Gary Jacob. “I think we [AROTR and Galt] just have different business operating practices. We just think customers that come to the Galt House for Abbey Road on the River are part of our group, and apparently they [Galt House] felt it was okay to market next year to them without going through us.”

    Image courtesy of the Galt House

    A spokesperson for the Galt House, Amanda Lambert, explained the reasoning behind the distribution of the flier. “It is common for hotels to try and get their customers to book for the next year while they’re here, and we did a promotional piece, left under every hotel room door, just offering them special rates to book for next year. That’s a marketing thing. We had guests that were staying here for Reggae Festival, we had guests that were here for weddings, we had guests that were here because our pool opened up, the WNBA was in town…we made it so it didn’t specify that event.”

    Jacobs is at least in communication with the Galt House. “I met with some people from the Conventions Bureau and some representatives of the Galt house today,” he told me on May 26. “We had one of those – you ever see the Seinfeld episode about Festivus, where there’s an airing of grievances? We had an airing.”

     

    We Can Work It Out

     

    During our conversation, Jacob at first seemed adamant about his commitment to the continuation of AROTR: “I’m going to try to open my mind to find a solution. The city’s [of Louisville] been really good to us. The Mayor’s office, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau – they’ve all tried really hard to keep AROTR, which is a small event, with a limited budget that produces big things...we don’t have big sponsorships, we don’t have the kind of money that certain other entertainment entities in town have. We do more with less than probably any music festival in the history of music festivals.”

    Photo courtesy Abbey Road on the River

    Then, Jacob noted that this past weekend’s Abbey Road on the River was the best he could remember. “I’m just so excited about the weekend we just had. I’m so proud of it, so fortunate to have had such great weather. I’m so fortunate people love this event so much. So the best possible outcome was to have another year like the one we just had, and then if the Almighty deems it, have another year after that like the one we just had. And if it winds up lasting, like the Kentucky Derby, for 141 years, they can name a stage after me.”

     

    Hello Goodbye

     

    But despite his talk of naming stages, Jacob also seems hesitant to commit to even organizing the festival past 2017. “To me, 2017 is a long way off. And someday AROTR will end in Louisville, or I’ll end it in Louisville. I’m making a decision that ’16 would be the last year here because we don’t have a relationship any longer with the hotel whose property we basically are attached to.

    “It’s been a question of ‘is now the right time to go?’ I’ve assured everyone in a position to care about the event that I will do my best to listen, and be open, and to take a few months and see what happens. Moving is not necessarily what we were saying, [2017] might be the last one. We might move on. Do something else. I don’t know. Do you know what you’re going to be doing in a year?

    Image courtesy Abbey Road on the River

    “These events take a full year to plan. They’re very complicated. And the only thing I can say at this point is we’re going to listen to everything the people have to say. We’re not going to make a final decision for three or four or five or six months. When and if we do, we’ve assured the people of the city that they would know first.”

     

    Come Together

     

    And the city is waiting for that verdict. Katrina Gallagher, Communications Manager at the Louisville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said, “We have an economic impact calculator, and the last I saw, we were estimating it [the economic gain for Louisville from Abbey Road on the River] at about three million per year … economic impact is one of those really interesting things, because we don’t have a turnstile on the city. We can’t see when people come in, they don’t tell us when they come in. Our estimations come from things like room nights and space rented, mainly we’re dealing a lot with hotels.”

    That means that LCVB’s three-million dollar impact figure is mostly calculated using rooms rented by out-of-town guests – likely indicating the actual economic gain for Louisville from AROTR is higher. According to Mayor Greg Fischer’s statement, “Abbey Road on the River is a signature festival for our city and it was nice to see large crowds in attendance this weekend. I'm hopeful that this private business matter can be resolved to keep the music playing in Louisville for many years to come."

    In the meantime, Jacob is still basking in the glow of AROTR 2015. “We just had the best possible time. The weather this weekend was so amazing that I’m not mad. I just don’t know if I want to come back in ’17. I’m not going to leave here angry if I leave.”

     

    Let It Be

     

    And this conundrum begs the question: when is the right time to stop holding a music festival, or turn it over to other people, or move it to a new city? When asked about his decision to end his self-named sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld said this, “I wanted to end the show on the same kind of peak we’ve been doing it on for years. I wanted the end to be from a point of strength. I wanted the end to be graceful.”

    Photo courtesy Abbey Road on the River

    Should Abbey Road on the River end or move after 2016, arguably at the zenith of its popularity, much like Seinfeld, or carry on (and thus, inevitably, peter out)? The first three AROTR celebrations were in Cleveland, OH from 2002-2004, and the festival undeniably grew exponentially with the move to Louisville in 2005. For the good of the Festival, should it move or end? For the good of Louisville, should it stay?

    The love in Gary Jacob’s voice when he talks about Abbey Road on the River is palpable. When I ask what his best possible outcome to this situation is, he laughed. “I win the lotto. That would be the best outcome. Then I’ll just fund the event from my yacht, and everyone will come for free and have the best time imaginable.”

    A sentiment worthy of the Beatles.

    Article Image courtesy of Jenna Foster. You can check our her coverage of Abbey Road on the River here. 

    Elizabeth Myers's picture

    About Elizabeth Myers

    Big fan of bacon and bourbon, deep fried anything, sweet tea and sweet nothings.

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