By Dan Hust
BETHEL August 19, 2003 In an abrupt announcement Friday, Ben & Jerrys officials cancelled the planned One World One Heart Festival and the companys 25th anniversary bash scheduled for this weekend at the Woodstock site in Bethel.
According to a statement published Friday afternoon on the companys Web site, benjerry.com, Ben & Jerrys rolled into its 25th year with a sizeable birthday wish: to take a great concept known as the One World One Heart Festival to the next level and to a new location more accessible to its many East Coast fans.
The decision to move the companys annual festival to Bethel Woods, the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival, with its rich heritage and unique history, seemed just the ticket.
Right place. Wrong time. An economic downturn coupled with an unexpected slump in the music industry has forced our hand and the cancellation of this years One World One Heart Festival.
At times like these, our loyal fans come first. Automatic refunds will be provided to everyone who purchased tickets.
At $32 a person per day for the August 23-24 festival, those tickets would have bought guests the opportunity to see such acts as LeAnn Rimes and Third Eye Blind, along with the chance to sample local musicians, crafts and retail vendors and, of course, lots of ice cream.
The Unilever-owned companys two senior public relations officials, Chrystie Heimert and Lee Holden, did not return repeated calls for comment.
However, Town of Bethel Supervisor Allan Scott did have something to say.
I am very disappointed. I was not given any other reasons other than what was in the press release, Scott stated.
In fact, Scott who is resigning to take the CEO post of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency had stayed on as Bethels supervisor to help get the concert going.
We now have to focus on the big picture, he concluded. We are aggressively moving forward with the Gerry Foundation and the performing arts center.
Glenn Pontier, the director of communications for the Gerry Foundation (which owns the Woodstock property and was leasing it to Ben & Jerrys), echoed Scotts feelings.
Were absolutely disappointed, surprised and shocked, he remarked yesterday. I dont really know why [they cancelled].
Pontier said he had actually been putting up posters for the concert the day before the news arrived.
Although he didnt know for sure what would happen to the foundations lease agreement with Ben & Jerrys, Pontier pointed out that the foundation was in no other way associated with the concerts.
Adding that the Bethel Woods sign at the corner of Hurd Road and Route 17B would be up by next week, he said that plans for the $46 million performing arts center were on track.
[Their] not putting on a festival has no effect on what our plans are, he explained. Were not hurt by it not happening.
Although he did admit that peoples perceptions of the Gerry Foundations involvement in Ben & Jerrys event might affect the foundations reputation, he pointed out that the new and just-completed summer farmers market at the site was a solid success and the three-year-old Fall Harvest Market is set to begin again this August 31 in Bethel, complete with special events for children, wine-lovers and alpaca aficionados.
And architects continue refining sketches of the new performing arts center and related facilities with an eye towards a 2004 groundbreaking.
Theres been a steady forward motion, said Pontier.