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Farewell to Rockville

Jacksonville loses major music festival

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The City of Jacksonville’s cronies-only urban redevelopment racket claims another victim as Welcome to Rockville moves to Daytona Beach. The major music festival has been hosted annually in the Northbank district since 2011. According to a weekend press release written on behalf of Los Angeles-based production company Danny Wimmer Presents, however, Rockville will celebrate its 10th anniversary at Daytona International Speedway in May 2020. The company cited Jacksonville “development” as a determining factor.

Northeast Florida music-lovers immediately took to social media to mourn the loss, suggesting that short-sighted—even hostile—city policy had driven out the hard-rock event. Some, however, held out hope that Rockville would one day return to Jacksonville, presumably after the proposed demolition and redevelopment of Sports Complex infrastructure, including the Hart Bridge ramps and Lot J.

Folio Weekly spoke with DWP CEO Danny Hayes, who had good news and bad news. The bad news always comes first: The move is as permanent as it gets in the festival business. DWP has every intention to make Rockville a success in its new digs and to keep the festival there. The good news, for what it’s worth: Hayes’ company hopes to organize a new, smaller event to fill the void in Jacksonville.

“We were told [Metropolitan Park] would not be available in 2020 because of construction. So for 2020, the park was simply off the table. But we also understand that, long-term, the plan is to develop the site. We don't really know what that means for us in terms of available footprint going forward ... The park would need to be expanded to hold the growth of the festival. My understanding is the footprint is being reduced or even eliminated. There’s too much uncertainty right now. And unfortunately, there’s no other site in Jacksonville that can accommodate all our needs and is large enough.”

Hayes said the company is in the early stages of developing a new event to take place in Jacksonville “most likely in 2020, if not then by 2021 ... It just depends on determining the appropriate site and content.”

This event will not be Rockville-branded, nor are there plans to rebrand the existing festival to fit its new surroundings. One Folio Weekly Facebook follower opined, “Are you at least going to change the name to Rocktona or something [because] Rockville is ours?” We put the question to Hayes.

“On one hand,” he explained, “I'm flattered and proud that Jacksonville feels a sense of ownership, but changing the name is in essence starting a new festival, and we didn't want to do that given the momentum of Welcome to Rockville.”

“We respect and appreciate that people are upset,” Hayes continued. “Our relationship with Jacksonville isn't over. This is Danny Wimmer's hometown. His family is still there. We fought hard to have a presence in Jacksonville, and we're not going to abandon it.”

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