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feistysara55 karma

Within five minutes of getting in that line, it started to rain again and there were no buses in sight. People behind us started getting rowdy and tried pushing us forward into the barriers in order to get under the bridge. The way the Williamsburg shuttle pick up was set up did not take inclement weather into account. First of all, we were forced to stand just a few feet from under the bridge and were soaked. Rather than modifying the line so all of us could have stayed dry, you forced us to stand in the freezing rain with 50+ MPH winds. To make things worse, the line was placed right next to an enormous drain pipe. It was at least a foot in diameter, if not bigger. As we were getting poured on, the drainpipe started flooding where we were standing. Those were the scariest and longest 20-30 minutes of my life. I have never been more afraid for my life than I was on Sunday, and I have been robbed at gunpoint before. I have never felt so cold, wet, and desperate for help. As my rainboots started flooding with shin-level water and my entire body was being pounded on by the torrential storm, all I could do was focus on my breathing. I tried my best not to panic, cry, scream, etc. and simply lengthened my inhales and exhales. I had to focus all my attention on staying alive. I kept thinking: "Don't die. Don't die. Don't die." I noticed how the screams and cries of terror from those around me contrasted so greatly with the screams of joy we had heard earlier at the festival. This made me remember all the children I had seen earlier that day and throughout the weekend. Teens, preteens, the 10 and below crowd, and the babies and strollers. They were all there. Suddenly my situation did not seem as bad. All I could think about was how I hoped those children and babies were having a better experience than I was. From the screams of desperation around me, I could hear teenagers, which are also technically children, crying for their mothers and fathers and saying things like "I don't want to die." The line slowly started moving and after standing in the downpour of the rain and the drainpipe we were finally under the bridge. Others had to wait for even longer. After thirty long minutes, we finally got on a bus. I know we were some of the lucky ones because others were stranded on the island for 3+ hours. Others had to walk on the metal bridge as lightning was striking. 

You claim that our "safety is [your] number one priority" but your actions say the opposite. You could have held the festival earlier, canceled it altogether, had an emergency plan, allowed people to shelter in place, provided emergency supplies, etc. but you did none of that. You had nine years of previous experience and even a full day to plan how you would handle the potential emergency, and you failed. Completely. It felt like you tried your hardest to host the festival so you wouldn't have to refund us, and when that didn't work, you tried kicking us out of the venue rather than allowing us to shelter in place, so we would no longer be your liability. By the way, your claims that no one was injured were false. Just because there were no reported injuries, does not mean that they didn't happen. I witnessed people being trampled and stepped on.  People posted pictures on twitter of their injuries. Just because they didn't want to take a $500+ ambulance, does not mean that they weren't injured because of your utter failure at providing an emergency plan.

I appreciate your offer to refund our tickets. Honestly, it is the least you could do after exposing us to that hell on earth. You put us through emotional trauma that could have easily been prevented with better planning. GovBall, you're doing great, but you need to do better.

My suggestions (in no particular order):

  • Have an actual disaster plan. Provide designated shelter areas (stages, tents, under the bridges) or if you cannot provide shelter, provide everyone with a rain poncho, or if you're being stingy, trash bags so we do not have to get soaked and stay in cold, wet clothes for several hours.
    • Ensure that your disaster plan takes all potential threats into account. For example, don't place a shuttle line next to a massive drainpipe. Also, allow people to wait under the bridges rather than in the freezing rain.
  • Do not allow children to come to this event anymore. The fact that you are willing to risk exposing a small child, baby, and even teen to the horrors we experienced this weekend is insane. If you are not prepared to handle adults in these situations, you are nowhere near ready to handle children. No one should have to go through what we went through, especially a child.
  • Have the buses, ferries, etc. be ready. If you know there is a potential for a storm and for some reason you still decide to hold the show, hire extra buses so that people don't have to wait for so long. Make partnerships with rideshare apps and local NY transportation agencies to ensure people can get out of there as quickly as possible. Don't allow people to walk on a metal bridge in the middle of a lightning storm.
  • Allow people to exit wherever there is a regular or emergency exit. Do not force people out of the venue on the wrong side.
  • Better train your staff for emergencies. Most of the staff seemed as lost as we were.
    • This includes directing staff to certain areas that need extra assistance (aka shuttle/ferry lines).
  • Better train your security staff. Rather than standing around doing nothing, they should have started kicking us out from the very first announcement. When I went to festivals in Los Angeles, the CSC security staff would link arms and create giant human chains that would force people to leave.
  • Communicate with us. Keep us updated on transportation (aka when are shuttles running), festival logistics, potential inclement weather, emergency exit plan, etc. We were left in the dark about so many things. It all could have gone so much better if you just told us what the hell was going on.
  • Don't prioritize money over peoples' safety. I do not believe you even for a second when you say people's safety is your top priority when your actions showed the complete opposite. Next time, cancel the god damn festival or have an actual plan in place for how you're going to handle things. Again, kicking people out so they are no longer your liability, is not how you prioritize people's safety. Don't be so negligent. Do better.

feistysara39 karma

Hi Tom, Jordan, and Team Founders:I made a Reddit account today just so I could share the experiences I had this weekend with you. I don't even know how to describe how I am feeling. Profoundly unhappy might be a way to start. Before I go any further I want to clarify that I am upset at how you handled the situation. I know there are factors that go beyond your control. However, there were many things you could have done better to ensure everyone had a much more enjoyable and above all, safer, experience. This post is going to be long, so I am going to break it down into two sections. The first one will be an overview of what I experienced at Governor's Ball. The second part will be a continuation of my experiences and will also consist of suggestions I have on how you can make sure this NEVER happens again.

My experience

I first went to Governor's Ball in 2015. Honestly, it was one of the coolest festival experiences of my life. As my boyfriend and I were broke college students at the time, we could not afford plane tickets. So we rode on Greyhound buses from Los Angeles all the way to New York for three days straight just so we could attend. It was all SO worth it. Getting to see some of my favorite artists with one of the greatest cities in the world as a backdrop was surreal. After moving to Washington DC, we decided we had to go back. We were so excited when the 2019 lineup was released and bought 3-day wristbands and 3-day Williamsburg shuttle passes within the first five minutes of when they were released. The first two days of the festival were sublime. Sure there were little hiccups here and there, but nothing worth mentioning here. As an event planner, I know there is no such thing as a perfect event. Things will go wrong here and there, and that is fine. What is important is to have a backup plan. My understanding is that storms are not new to Governor's Ball. I know that the Sunday show was canceled in 2016. I know that it rained the first time I attended in 2015 (although thankfully it was light). I also know that 2013 was a memorably wet year for attendees. I do not understand how after running for NINE years, you do not have an actual emergency inclement weather plan in place. And no, kicking people out of the venue so they are no longer your liability, is not a plan. As Sunday came, you had a really tough choice on your hands. You knew there was the possibility of two storms that day, one in the afternoon and one at night. Rather than starting the day early and taking advantage of the sun, you postponed the show until after the first storm. It didn't really make sense to us as attendees. In fact, it seemed like you were trying really hard to not have to refund us for the day. You took a gamble in letting us come to the venue at 6:30 and you lost. Of course, as you know, not everyone got the memo about the event starting later in the day, so you had tons of people waiting for 8+ hours at the gates. Additionally, there was ZERO communication whatsoever for those of us who purchased shuttle/ferry passes. I messaged you on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in hopes of getting a response as to when the shuttles were running. I did not receive a response until 7:30pm, after I had already gotten to the venue. You guys never posted anything about shuttles/ferries anywhere which led hundreds of people to wait for hours. When the first storm came and went, rather than letting people in as soon as it ended, you still had them wait until 6:30. This resulted in thousands of people trying to get into the venue at the same time. This really sucked for those of us who had paid for shuttle passes, as we arrived long after the crowds were already there. By the way, the music did NOT start at 7. I know because I got to the venue at 6:30 and was able to get in at around 7, right after Noname finished her set. After finally getting in, we were able to enjoy the last day of Governor's Ball. We were most excited to see Kaytranada and The Strokes. As we started walking to the American Eagle stage for Kaytranada's set at around 9pm, it started to rain. This is at the exact same time you received an alert regarding the two weather systems. We waited at the stage for thirty minutes and received no updates from the festival about the hazard that was potentially approaching. If we had had any sort of warning during that time, getting off the island could have been a lot easier, as people could have left in waves rather than all at once. At 9:20 you were notified that the weather systems combined into a "very severe threat." What did we hear from you then? Nothing. The first notice we received as at 9:30 on the dot, ten minutes after you had that information at hand. At 9:30, the moment when Kaytranada was supposed to start, you decided to warn us about the storm. The updates on social media came after within the next 5-7 minutes. We hung out by the stage for a bit because security wasn't kicking us out and Kaytranada actually came on stage to greet his fans. After he left the stage we decided it was time to head out. As we were walking towards the exit, we saw angry fans start to throw trash at the stage. This scared us into moving further and faster away from the threat. Of course, later we saw videos of fans destroying the art on site. It was crazy to see how quickly people lost their sensibility. That is not at all your fault and I am so sorry that the art was destroyed. However, your security teams did not handle this situation well at all. There are videos of them pulling, shoving, and punching attendees (see second slide: https://www.instagram.com/p/ByO29EVlzAI/). From some of the videos, it's clear that the people apprehended weren't even the culprits, but rather unfortunate souls that happened to be standing close to the chaos. I am so glad we were able to get out of there before that started happening.As we went out of the gate, we tried to make our way through the crowd towards the Williamsburg shuttle. This is where our nightmare truly began. First of all, there were so few staff working (I only saw three) the shuttle line, that it became total anarchic chaos. People were shoving each other, knocking over barriers, hopping fences, and cutting the line. Your staff did nothing. How could they though? Three people versus an angry mob stand no chance. We decided to just get in the line and try to block people from shoving past us with our bodies. There was such poor signaling and communication from staff, that there were people stuck in that line that were in the wrong shuttle line or didn't even have passes. Later we learned that this was partially due to the fact that your security staff started to force people out of wherever the closest exit was, rather than allowing them to exit at their designated exit. Rather than allowing people to take cover, security and NYPD pushed people into the lightning storm (see https://twitter.com/xHelenhu/status/1135371500540825601 AND https://twitter.com/elvirthesultan/status/1135410343147122688)

feistysara11 karma


feistysara8 karma

Thank you for saying this. Honestly, writing it all out helped me feel better. I was too much in shock on Sunday to process things. Yesterday was for crying. Today was for writing.

I hope they read it too.