By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY August 29, 2003 In what they described as an apology tour, Ben & Jerrys officials visited several organizations around Sullivan County Monday and Tuesday in an attempt to smooth relations in the wake of the cancellation of the One World One Heart Festival.
Chief Marketing Officer Walt Freese, Public Relations Director Chrystie Heimert and Integrated Marketing Manager (and festival director) Sarah Sparks traveled seven hours from Ben & Jerrys Vermont headquarters earlier this week to meet with the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, Town of Bethel Supervisor Allan Scott, the Gerry Foundation, area media and local businesses to apologize for the abrupt festival cancellation and to brainstorm ways to help the community.
On Tuesday morning, the trio met with the management of the Sullivan County Democrat. In addition to apologizing, they stressed that in no way should this incident reflect poorly on the featured acts or the Gerry Foundation, which was leasing the Woodstock festival site in Bethel to Ben & Jerrys.
We own this lock, stock and barrel, said Heimert in admitting Ben & Jerrys is solely to blame for the August 23-24 festivals disappearance. What happened was just a series of misses.
Those misses, said Heimert and her colleagues, included late promotions, trouble scheduling top acts like the Dave Matthews Band and Lenny Kravitz, and inexperience with mounting a paid-ticket series of concerts far from the formerly free festivals traditional home of Vermont.
We learned that were far better at putting on a free festival in Vermont than being a rock promoter, explained Freese. The end result is we waited too long. We accept full responsibility for that.
So, in an effort to make amends, the company is reimbursing vendors for purchasing perishables for the festival, honoring all its contracts (including paying performers), covering the cost of rooms booked at area hotels for the festival and even working with Leisure Time Ice and Spring Water in Kiamesha Lake to print new bottled water labels to replace the oversupply of ones touting the defunct concerts.
Although no replacement concerts are planned, Ben & Jerrys is investigating everything from grants to scholarships to business creation/ retention to even a Scoop Shop a nonprofit ice cream store (of which there are 14 nationwide) that reinvests its earnings in the area it serves to make some long-term positive impacts on Sullivan County, said the officials.
That message was conveyed at the other area meetings, as well.
We are confident of their sincerity in working with our community, said Chamber President Jacquie Leventoff. Sullivan County and Ben & Jerrys both experienced tremendous disappointment at the cancelling of the festival. Now is the time for moving forward.