HAZLET – A summer music event at Veterans Park with big-name local bands could be fun for residents, raise money for charity, bring business to town and shine a light on local talent.
It could also “put Hazlet on the map.”
That was the pitch to the Township Committee on Dec. 19 when representatives of Aweless Agencies of Keansburg and Absolute Music of Hazlet described their vision to partner with the township for a free, all-day, alcohol-free music festival at the sprawling park on August 8.
“This is good for Hazlet,” said John Albino of Absolute Music, an experienced concert production coordinator. “I would not put my name on something that I didn’t think had integrity and could do something that could promote the town.”
Aweless Agencies, led by CEO Adel Soliman and COO Jordan DeDea, is building its brand by organizing charitable concert festivals. On August 18, 2018, they held their first Aweless Charity Music Fest on Keansburg’s Beach with one month’s preparation to support Amanda’s Easel and Special People United to Ride. On August 10, 2019, they organized one in Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park to benefit JBJ Soul Kitchen and Home Free Animal Rescue with six months of planning.
After visiting Veterans Park as a vendor at Hazlet Day in late September, they thought it could be perfect for their next venue. With eight months lead time, it could be very well organized in conjunction with the town, they said. Their timeline described collecting sponsorships and merchant applications, finalizing artists, creating a marketing plan, securing vendors and taking deposits. They suggested Hazlet’s Hope Network and the RAINE Foundation could be beneficiaries.
Soliman estimated the concert would draw an estimated “rolling” attendance of 5,000 of people coming and going. New Jersey headliners like Brolin Cundo, Jackie June and The Nerds could be expected to draw in around 1,500 fans, local traffic would account for 600 people, and advertising on Facebook and digital billboards could draw 2,500 more.
A preliminary estimated budget of $30,464 includes $4,964 for security, $3,000 for music production, $4,000 for marketing, $6,000 for insurance, $1,500 for festival amenities, $8,500 for artists and $2,600 for branding and design by Aweless. But Soliman said those costs could be offset by sponsorships, revenue from merchant fees and utilizing the township’s reserved advertising space on digital billboards. Albino has also offered to donate the “back line” of amplifiers, keyboards and drums to save money on rentals.
The estimate could also grow larger, especially if security costs grow. But Police Chief Phillip Meehan, present for the presentation, said his department already has an operational plan for 1,500 to 2,000 people in place for fireworks at the same location, and it can be adjusted if necessary.
Mayor Scott Aagre expressed concern about Hazlet being on the hook for the concert.
Committeeman Skip McKay, who introduced the concert promoters at the meeting, assured him he was on the same page, “No, we’re not taking the first step until we find some sponsors,” McKay said.
With the rest of the Township Committee’s consent, McKay volunteered to “knock on some doors” to see what could be accomplished in the next month or so. “This is like step number one in like, 175 steps,” he said.
John Dwyer, the president of the Hazlet Business Owners Association and owner of Bethany Liquors, observed the presentation. During the meeting, McKay asked him to share his feedback.
“I think, doing this, it’s great for business,” he said, especially if the organizers could draw popular local bands like the Moroccan Sheepherders or The Nerds, he added.
On Aug. 30, Dwyer held a successful bottle signing for the heavy metal band Slipknot, which drew hundreds of out-of-towners to the ShopRite Plaza parking lot.
“You’re going to have a lot of Hazlet people, but with those groups you’re going to bring people from the outside, definitely, into Hazlet. That will help the businesses tremendously.”