ATLANTIC CITY — Chelsea Heights will host its second music festival in two weeks Saturday.
But this time the show will be much shorter, with local ties — and a lot more security.
While last week’s Dave Matthews Band Caravan brought about 70,000 spectators over three days, Summer Fest 2011 featuring hip-hop artist Rick Ross will last about five hours and top out at about 7,000 fans.
“We’re here to show that an independent company with the right vision and the right teamwork can do just as well as the casinos do,” said Craig Newsome, the show’s promoter and an Atlantic City native. “We can help the city shine, too.”
He said heavy security — including about 100 guards and a handful of police officers they are hiring on special detail — will help keep things safe. That, and some positive thoughts.
“Violence doesn’t happen at every hip-hop event,” Newsome said. “We’re praying ourselves that it won’t happen.”
Gunshots have often been tied to Ross shows. In 2008, a charity event in Florida’s Miami Gardens was cut short when shots were fired near the event. Ross’ publicist told MTV News at the time that Ross did not want to leave his fans like that, so he returned for a brief performance and then went into the audience to shake hands and sign autographs.
But the other names on the ticket may cause some concern. Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, of The Diplomats, are scheduled to perform.
When Jones played the House of Blues in 2006, fights broke out, spilling out into the porte cochere. Nine police reports mark that night, and include one arrest and a man who needed stitches in his lip. A Press of Atlantic City story at that time reported about two dozen police cars along with an assist from K-9 officers.
But Santana’s history may be more troubling. He was arrested in Feb. 1, after a 10-month investigation led by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office’s Gang Unit found two loaded 9 mm handguns, several boxes of ammunition, marijuana and drug paraphernalia at his recording studio in Bergenfield, Bergen County.
Santana — whose real name is Laron James — “is a suspected member of the Bloods street gang,” the release announcing his arrest reads.
He was released on $125,000 bail. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office did not return calls seeking the current status of his case.
“We’re well aware of everything involving these guys,” Atlantic City Deputy Police Chief Henry White said. “We don’t anticipate any problems. If something does happen, we will be prepared.”
Deputy Chief Ernest Jubilee, who has been handling most of the planning, said you never know what part of the artists’ background is true and what is for publicity.
For example, Ross’ concerns with his public image have been tied more to his law-enforcement employment.
In the 1990s, he worked as a prison guard at the South Florida Reception Center in Dade County, Fla. He has tried to deny those ties, finally admitting in a 2009 interview with radio personality Big Boy that he was a corrections officer, but talks about it being to make money and “wasn’t for the obvious reasons.”
As far as Saturday’s concert, Jubilee said concerns have been more about the crowd than the music.
“People are nervous,” he said. “But it’s not with the lineup. Whenver you have a whole lot of people gathered in one spot, there are those concerns whether it’s a hip-hop concert or Dave Matthews.”
But he pointed out the success of last weekend’s three-day show and said “we’re confident we’re going to have a good weekend.”
The Fourth of July holiday combined with Saturday’s show could mean it would be necessary “to assign additional officers to ensure pedestrian safety and vehicle traffic flows efficiently to and from the concert event,” department spokesman Sgt. Monica McMenamin said.
The city does not expect traffic to be overwhelming, she added.
Doors open at 5 p.m., and traffic is expected to filter in leading up to Ross taking the stage. When it lets out at 11 p.m., there could be some traffic concerns.
“If traffic does become an issue, police and/or traffic control officers may be assigned traffic posts to control the intersections,” McMenamin said.
State Police Lt. Commander Tom Gilbert, commander of the city’s Tourism District, said Jubilee is on top of things and there seemed to be good information sharing.
“The goal is to have a clean and safe event,” he said, invoking the term of the governor when he announced the district. “All the agencies again will work together that way (just as they did with Dave Matthews).”
“Everybody’s very optimistic it’s going to go as well as (the DMB Caravan),” said City Councilman George Tibbitt, who lives in the Chelsea neighborhood.
Unlike Dave Matthews, where the city paid officers overtime to work the show and man 12-hour traffic assignments, this show will have officers assigned by the Special Employment Section. The venue pays the city $67.50 an hour, including $50 for the officers, who volunteer for the detail on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Everything is on schedule,” Newsome said. “There were little bumps in the road and we tried to iron them out. We’re just trying to have a successful event.”
The money made will go to the Lupis Foundation and the Kevin B. Wilkins Memorial Scholarship Fund, Newsome said. Wilkins was an Atlantic City police officer who accidentally shot himself Feb. 18, 2010, while on duty. The scholarships are awarded to one boy and one girl basketball-playing scholar-athlete accepted to college.
Newsome said the Dave Matthews Band Caravan showed the area can handle a big music festival. Now, promoters want to do something geared more toward those who live in the city.
“We want to bring something for the kids and the youth in the city that nobody’s really paying attention to,” he said. “It’s very exciting. I appreciate the opportunity that the mayor presented us.”
As for possible problems, he replied: “Negativity brings negativity. We’re going to keep positive.”
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