The ‘next big thing’

5/3/2019, 6 a.m.
We congratulate singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams, whose creative genius, perseverance and open spirit led to the successful “Something in the Water” …

We congratulate singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams, whose creative genius, perseverance and open spirit led to the successful “Something in the Water” festival last weekend in Virginia Beach. 

The multi-day event drew 35,000 ticket holders and thousands more people to the oceanfront, where Mr. Williams and his nationally known music friends put on an event to remember. It also showcased the tremendous talent emanating from Hampton Roads and Virginia, including Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Pusha T, DRAM, Teddy Riley, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Leikeli47 and, of course, Mr. Williams himself.

After the event wrapped up on Sunday, Virginia Beach city officials, local police, hoteliers, business owners, tourism officials and others have all called the big entertainment weekend a success.

Already Virginia Beach officials have included $250,000 in the city’s proposed 2020 budget toward sponsorship of the festival next April. And more than 10,000 people have signed a petition to keep the festival’s popular Adidas Creator Park basketball court — or a model of it — on the beachfront. The court, situated just off the boardwalk on 24th Street, enabled festivalgoers to show off their hoops skills, participate in dance workshops and watch dance competitions with Mr. Williams’ celebrity choreographer.

Clearly, “Something in the Water” was a major contrast from past problem-plagued College Beach Weekends at the resort city that officials claim resulted in increased crime and heightened tensions between business owners and the largely African-American student crowds that attended.

We believe the difference was Mr. Williams, who said he was inspired by college students and others.

“If we have guests coming here,” he said in media interviews, “we have to entertain them, give them something to do.”

He attributed the festival’s success to the ensemble of efforts by everyone from city officials to “everyday people.” In the past, he said, “there may have been pushback. But we see what happens now when people push forward.

“It has been an incredible demonstration of harmony,” he said. “It shows that the bumper sticker is real — Virginia really is for lovers — when we come together and allow it to be.”

Mr. Williams also noted that the event drew mayors from across Hampton Roads, as well as Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney. 

“Something in the Water” also demonstrates the impact entertainers, athletes, entrepreneurs, academics and other highly successful people can have on their hometowns if they have a vision, a bit of passion and a lot of verve.

Singer and actor Queen Latifah is planning to break ground this summer on a $14 million affordable housing complex in her native Newark, N.J. Officials announced earlier this year that in addition to having about 75 housing units, the complex will include a fitness center and retail space to be rented to nonprofits. The first segment of townhomes is expected to open in December 2020. 

We hope Mayor Stoney was taking notes and names at “Something in the Water” for a future high-profile, momentous event on Richmond’s waterfront. It’s time for the city’s “next big thing” to embrace all of the people instead of just benefiting a few.