PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Day one of the inaugural 420ish Unity Festival has wrapped up at the Portsmouth Sportsplex.
The gates opened around noon, with more than a dozen acts set to perform throughout the afternoon and evening. That includes headliners City Girls and Rick Ross.
On-site, there are a number of vendors selling food and hemp products. There is also a large police presence, including EMS.
Organizers say they have high hopes for the event.
“One of the number one things, you know, that we’re always going to struggle with us the stereotype,” said Germain Green, the festival organizer. “I mean the identity that comes with the city of Portsmouth.”
As of Saturday evening, both one-day and two-day general admission tickets were still available. The event’s website showed that one-day tickets were $199 plus fees, while two-day tickets were $299 plus fees.
While VIP Elite tickets were sold out, two-day VIP tickets were still on sale for $499 each.
Saturday’s lineup is filled with hip-hop artists, while Sunday’s performances are more reggae artists.
The festival has been in the works since last year, and has a goal of “bringing people of all ages and ethnicities together.” The festival’s website states that 30,000 tickets will be available for the 18 and up event that will feature live music from more than 20 artists, including headliners like City Girls, Rick Ross, and Shaggy.
“I invite people to come to the city of Portsmouth and see what we got to offer on today and tomorrow,” Green added. “And see that we’re not, you know, we’re not the, we’re not the headlines that you normally read in the newspaper.”
“I’m like oh hold on, Trina? Excuse me,” said Alice Adebari, a festival-goer from Raleigh, “And then City Girls? The baby of it?”
Community members and organizers say they hope people like Alice who come to Portsmouth will view the city in a positive light.
“It puts us on the map. You know, for people to want to come to Portsmouth to do things,” said Renata Brown the owner of The Arkk Group, LLC. “You know when people say Portsmouth, they always thinking negative but Portsmouth has a lot of positivity. Portsmouth has a lot of successful business owners.”
Tickets went on sale in January before necessary permits from the City of Portsmouth were approved and even though the festival is billed as a “music, food and canna festival,” the city has made clear marijuana — often termed 420 in slang — is not to be smoked on the festival grounds. There also won’t be alcohol.
On social media, many have complained about the prices of the tickets. A two-day non-refundable general admission pass is priced at more than $300 with fees.
In addition, the location of the Sportsplex is far from areas associated with entertainment and tourism. A production manager with the Chesapeake-based Elite AV Elements production company told 10 On Your Side Thursday that soft ground made setting up the 80,000-pound stage difficult.
Green wouldn’t release how many tickets have been sold so far but said he is hopeful to see “many day-of.”
“The festival for me, as far as success, is people coming from other cities and seeing what the city of Portsmouth has to offer and people getting home safely,” Green said.
State Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who championed the legislation that made recreational marijuana legal in the state and now owns her own cannabis shop, reassured this week the festival is set up for success.
She said when it comes to security, 54 Portsmouth police officers and sheriff’s deputies have been hired to help with security.
“It’s going to be an economic boost for the city … it’s going to bring people together,” Lucas said. “I’m hoping that it will be peaceful, if we pull that all off I think we are on our way to having a festival for Portsmouth that people can appreciate.”