The 2014 Freedom Festival Concert we had scheduled for Friday 7/27/2014 was rained out. This was my first challenge as a new band board member and officer. Due to schedule conflicts, both Steve and Veronica, our experienced current band President and Secretary (a past President), were absent. That meant I was next in the chain of responsibility to ensure that the show ran smoothly. Everything looked great as we got set up. The weather was just right. Partly cloudy, mid 70’s. The chairs were arranged and then… it happened! Around 5:50 with a warmup planned for 6:15 for our 7:00 concert, the heavens opened and dumped torrential rain over the park amphitheater. The rain continued for about 20 straight minutes. I had to make a decision about whether or not to continue the concert. With so many people involved, it was not easy. This Greenwood Freedom Festival concert had a choir singing with us, bringing the total number of people expected to be ON STAGE at nearly 150 musicians for this show! Some people would be driving from an hour away to perform for an audience that was now scared away. The torrential rain that appeared like (dark) magic about an hour before the show was definitely not invited.
I spoke to everybody who was there and found that the majority consensus among those present, including board members, was that this show should be stopped. As VP it was my job to declare to decision to do exactly that, making it “Official” so that we could take the next steps of letting everybody know that the show was off.
Based upon a number of factors, canceling the concert seemed like the logical choice, but it was not without stress. I decided to document the thought process for similar situations that may crop up in the future. That being said, here are the conditions leading up to the decision to cancel:
- When most people in the band or the audience would be preparing to come to the concert, it started raining.
- It rained for about 20 minutes, quite hard at times.
- The lawn was saturated and covered with puddles.
- With about 5 minutes to spare before the scheduled 6:15 downbeat for our warmup, we had not even begun to unload percussion equipment from the truck. That process usually takes about 20 minutes.
- Tom (our head Director) looked as if he had fallen into a lake. His opinion was that even if there wasn’t a second storm coming, having a heavy downpour like this happening so soon before an outdoor concert is reason enough to stop the show.
- The radar showed that the rain we experienced was mild compared to the storm that was headed in our direction and likely to hit right around 7:00. Unless the storm changed course or weakened, it looked like it had the potential to continue for a couple hours packing high winds and ground lighting strikes.
- Based upon discussions with several band members about past events when bad weather happened during the hour or two leading up to the start of a concert, the result was a concert with nearly half of the band members not showing up to perform for a nearly non-existent audience which mainly consisted of the people who came as guests of the few band members who showed up.
- Other comments heard from experienced band members:
- “The people who do come to concerts right after a rain like this don’t enjoy it much because the mosquitoes get fierce.”
- “I remember one concert where a storm hit and we had the audience come up on stage to wait it out.”
- “One problem with having everything get freshly wet is that the foot bridge to the lawn is the one that most people who can barely walk and when it’s wet it gets SLICK! Really slick!” (Even I slipped on it. It should have some no-slip grip added to it.)
- With percussion equipment to unload, a decision of whether to continue or cancel had to be made immediately. I said, “Concert is canceled.” Someone said, “Is that official?” I said, “It’s official.”
If the concert was going to continue we had to decide immediately so that we could start unloading the truck (while it was still raining). The decision was cast and the announcement was made. No concert. At least the choir would have a chance to perform with the band again on 7/3/14 for the Garfield Park concert followed by fireworks.
In everything we do there are lessons to be learned. Suggestions for the future: get a bulk phone/text notification system to send announcements.