It was billed as the “plant-based party of the year,” but despite high hopes, thousands of ticket buyers, and hundreds of vendors, the third edition Vegan Block Party on October 16 found ticketed guests waiting in line for hours at Virginia meaningful Beach Park while vendors inside competed for smaller-than-expected crowds.
Guests who arrived close to the event’s noon opening time entered without incident, but shortly thereafter, City of Miami officials halted admission and didn’t allow organizers to reopen until 4:15 p.m.
The cause of the prolonged delay remains unclear. A fire inspector told New Times it was his understanding that the event space hadn’t passed its electrical inspection that morning, and, as a consequence, no guests could be admitted until the issue was resolved and the electrical inspector signed off. The fire inspector stipulated that he couldn’t speak officially for the electrical inspector.
Neither the City of Miami Special Events Permit office nor the city’s communications office could be reached for comment over the weekend.
Vegan Block Party organizer Ariel Levin declined to discuss the permit issue but said that a formal statement regarding the event would be forthcoming. New Times was on the scene Saturday, however, as Levin appeared personally before hundreds of would-be guests as they waited in a line that snaked upwards of 300 yards from the main field.
“We never would have wanted this disaster to happen, and it’s thoroughly the City of Miami’s fault,” she said at 2:30 p.m. “They’re sending an electrician out, who should be here in 30 minutes.” She discreetly told some of those who were nevertheless waiting in line that they could gain entry to the event. “If you just stroll down the beach, you’re going to find a path into the event — but people can’t flood it,” she said.
Sure enough, a short westward walk down the dunes revealed half of the event space was ungated and unguarded. Some guests got wise and walked in, no tickets needed, while others who didn’t get the news continued to wait. Sympathetic vendors brought coconut water, probiotic smoothies, vegan cookies and other goodies to people who hadn’t gotten in.
“I’m saving a lot of money this way,” one guest was heard to joke. “I’d probably have spent $700 in there by now.”
Others were less jovial about the situation. Some were seen leaving, talking of refunds and grumbling about the $20 they had paid for parking (a cost that wasn’t made clear on the event website). Disappointed guests posted dozens of comments on the event Facebook page, with messages like, “I was really looking forward to this event. I’m looking forward to my refund for the event and parking,” and, “Absolutely terrible! Waited for hours in a line that never moved…after driving hours to get there….”
Inside, the event space delivered everything that was advertised: 100 food and merchandise vendors, a wellness stop where attendees could practice guided yoga or meditation, plus bounce houses and other jumbo games for kids. Some vendors, like those at g.l.o.w., whose food truck doled out vegan froyo and other dishes to a steady stream of customers, expressed satisfaction with the event.
“Oh, it’s great for us,” said a woman handing out the cold treats. “We did this event last time, too.”
Others volunteered less-than-positive feedback.
“I came all the way from New Jersey,” said Thomas Hong, creator of shiitake mushroom jerky Vegky. “I expected there to be three or four times more people than this.”
This isn’t the first Vegan Block Party event to have struggled with planning issues.
New Times will update this story once Levin releases her promised statement.
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