Patriotic Festival moving from Virginia Beach to Norfolk; organizers cite need for indoor venue, insurance costs

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After weeks of speculation, Virginia Beach’s Patriotic Festival is set to move to Norfolk from its longtime home on the Oceanfront, but organizers say it’s not related to the recent news about Something in the Water.

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The event is expected to take place at Town Point Park and Norfolk Scope Arena and feature concerts from national touring artists, as well as military and corporate displays. It will continue to be named the Patriotic Festival. Organizers say a placeholder “Military Festival” was used as the project was under wraps.

10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox received advanced word on the move Saturday night.

Organizers say the main reason for moving the Patriotic Festival from Virginia Beach to Norfolk was the need for an indoor venue in case of weather cancellations. The Norfolk Scope has much more capacity (about 11,000 for concerts) than any indoor space in Virginia Beach.

“We came from Virginia Beach because we desperately need an indoor venue,” said Ira Agricola, who is president of the Patriotic Festival.

The Patriotic Festival was last held in 2019. Its events in 2020 and 2021 were both canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Agricola admits COVID-19 and the past two years of canceling or postponing the festival gave him time to step back and plan the future.

“The factors to move the festival were in place last September, and this was the ability to ensure against cancellation of concerts due to weather and to find a venue to protect our largest investment in this festival, which are the concerts,” Agricola said.

The festival is looking to pay up to $2 million for artists, and organizers say insurance for cancellations has gone up due to the pandemic. No performers have been announced at this time as negotiations continue.

10 On Your Side also learned that something else was at work for moving the festival from Virginia Beach: The Virginia Beach bureaucracy became too daunting to Patriotic Festival organizers.

“The special event permit in Virginia Beach involves all the departments: Public Safety, Public Works, EMS, Fire,” Agricola voice trailed off as he listed all the departments. “We had these meetings, and we wanted it to be more of a give and take.”

That said, Agricola insisted that securing the Scope as an indoor venue for concerts and to seat 11,000 people was the main reason for moving to Norfolk. He said the only place that could handle the same crowd in Virginia Beach is the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater.

“I promise you, the key issue was putting concerts on and protecting that investment,” he said.

This is the third major event to pull out of Virginia Beach in the past few months — following the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Something in the Water.

Something in the Water founder, Virginia Beach’s Pharrell Williams, said the concert at least wouldn’t return in 2022 due to “toxic energy” in the city and lack of cooperation with Williams’ proposals.

Data from the city shows that Patriotic Fest brought in an estimated tax revenue profit of $77,706 in 2018, followed by $366,167 from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Something in the Water brought in $1.1 million in taxes in Virginia Beach in 2019, and about $24 million in revenue for the region.

10 On Your Side asked Virginia Beach City Councilman Linwood Branch if it has been a tough time for the Resort City.

“Well, things happen in threes,” Branch said, referring to the recent exodus of two other large events. “I hope this is it, but this will give us a chance to reassess our whole program also.”

Branch showed up at the Norfolk news conference announcing the move on Monday to say congratulations to Norfolk. He believes that every time a door closes, a window opens.

“We have some holes to fill with events, and our event contractors are here today to see what we can do to fill that in,” Branch said.

At the news conference, Agricola outlined the Patriotic Festival’s economic impact.

“The $3 million Patriotic Festival is the largest military-themed event in the Commonwealth,” he said.

According to the Patriotic Festival, in 2019, the festival was Virginia Beach’s largest music festival. Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander hopes the same good fortune for the Mermaid City.

“Tourism remains a critical sector of our local economy, and our regional economy, and continues as a force in Norfolk,” Alexander said during Monday’s press conference.

In 2019, the festival generated about $14 million in direct spending for Virginia Beach. It also generated $23 million in economic activity for the Resort City,

Alexander also added that all festivals will be successful in generating hotel space, and restaurant visits and tickets.

“This rich history is here in Norfolk in 2022, and we look forward to the NATO festival in full format and look forward to the Patriotic Festival as well in the City of Norfolk,” Alexander added.

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