Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Something in the Water created a new ‘vibe’ for Virginia Beach, especially at the Oceanfront. Just ask festival goers

Something in the Water festival goers start to converge to the Oceanfront. (Southside Daily/Julia Marsigliano)
Something in the Water festival goers start to converge to the Oceanfront. (Southside Daily/Julia Marsigliano)

VIRGINIA BEACH — For many who were at the Oceanfront this weekend, there was more than just Something in the Water.

The last weekend of April has been known as an “organized chaos,” with College Beach Weekend – there were just not a lot of activities for students converging at the Oceanfront. The result, as authorities would attest, is a weekend filled with incidents and arrests.

Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams collaborated with his A-list buddies and city officials and came up with an elaborate festival that many see as a positive venture for the Resort City.

Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “Something in the Water is as much Williams’ love letter to his home city and state as it is a festival and community-organizing event.”

Mayor Bobby Dyer in a tweet said Virginia Beach will be the “city of yes.”

“Yes to opportunity. Yes to inclusion. Yes to new ideas and yes to moving ahead,” the mayor posted.

Pete Morilla, a college student from Richmond, came with his friends and immediately noticed a different “vibe.” He said he was at the Oceanfront last year for College Beach, and often found himself anxious, guarded and cautious.

Not this time around.

“This is something else,” Morilla said. “There’s plenty of things for young people and others to do. It really is something else.”

Sunday, the final day of the festival, began with a pop-up church service, what’s been dubbed as an “inclusive” service. Lines started to form even as the church service was still going on.

It was similar to a revival of sorts, said one attendee – but it set the tone of the day.

The rest of the day featured similar activities, but different acts on stage. Saturday night’s highlight was a performance by Pharrell and Friends, with a surprise appearance from Jay-Z (minus Beyoncé).


“I’m excited,” said Nia Wellman, 22 from Hampton University and a featured speaker on the “Is the American Dream a Myth? The Fight for Education Equity” panel at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. As a featured ‘Conversations’ speaker, she also got to attend the music festival and was interested in seeing “honestly everybody.”

“I’m interested in learning some new music,” she said.

There were some griping about traffic, parking, the shuttles, etc., but the mood in general appears to be upbeat. A woman waiting in line for a trolley even commented the weather has a lot to do with people’s moods.

That, and the experience.

“We wouldn’t afford to go,” said Lindsey Johnson, 20, also from Hampton University. Both Johnson and her friend, Tanea Harris, 19, signed up on the Something in the Water website as volunteers, which means after their shift, they can go to the festival for free.

When asked which artists Steve Weatherspoon, 35, from Chesapeake wanted to see, he said Jay-Z because that would be something different and a lot of money coming to Virginia Beach.

“He’s here,” Weatherspoon said.

Carlos Serrano, 32, came to the event from Northern Virginia with his friends and stayed a friend’s house in Norfolk.


Serrano was looking forward to seeing “everyone” and was one of many three-day tickets holders who received a 33 percent refund after Friday’s show was cancelled.

Bruce Orozco, 18, an exercise science major from Old Dominion University, decided to crash the festival with a couple of his college friends, right before finals week.

They got to the beach around 11 a.m. Saturday with little traffic. Once at the Oceanfront, they took naps on the beach, checked out the Something in the Water Art Walk, a pop-up art installation, got free samples of food from nearby events and even went for a swim.

“The water is ice cold,” he said.

Indeed, the water is cold, but festival goers didn’t seem to mind.

“It’s a lot better than just walking around and finding nothing to do,” Morilla said.



RELATED STORY: Something in the Water scenes: The flavor, festival crashers and ‘I’ll be sure not to do this again’

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