Hudson Project’s mea culpa disarms critics

Sunday night, Winston Farm was not a happy place (photo by Shannon Linnane)

Sunday night, Winston Farm was not a happy place (photo by Shannon Linnane)

When one makes mistakes in the undertaking of a grand endeavor, and the criticism comes, one can either dismiss the critics as ingrates for missing all that went well or humble one’s self before the complainants, make no excuses and promise to do better next time. The organizers of the Hudson Project music festival, held July 11–13 at Winston Farm, are opting for the latter, to redemptive effect.

Though the main problem — a lightning storm that cancelled the highly anticipated third night  — was out of the festival’s control, other issues were not.  There were complaints about rude and clueless staff, disorganized evacuation leading to thefts from campsites, refusals of food, water and medical help on Sunday–Monday, bribes sought for tows out of mud where cars never should have been parked, excessive security and nonsensical rules.


First came the announcement the refunds would be issued: 1/3 for three-day pass holders, 1/2 for Saturday–Sunday attendees, full refund for Sunday-only ticket holders. Parking fees were also refunded.

Subsequent official responses came, as so many do now, on social media; in this case, in the form of extended missives on Facebook that gave the impression festival organizers were sincerely bummed that their big party wasn’t the best-time-ever. Coming after several days of rancor from aggrieved attendees, who were portraying the weekend as a “police-state” and “money grab,” the messages  did much to ameliorate bad word-of-mouth — especially important for establishing a new festival.

“…Morale has been low, and not just for the fans, but also for all of us who worked so hard to create the inaugural Hudson Project,” reads a July 17 post. “After more than a full year of pouring our hearts and souls into creating an event that was built around the core of a positive fan experience, we know we fell short in some aspects.”

It references inappropriate behavior by staff, and “issues concerning entrance and exiting of the festival site, venue and campgrounds will be addressed,” a reference to security checkpoints. A number of female attendees said the searches were invasive. Others found the need to empty out all water bottles and camelbacks unnecessary (alcohol would destroy the interior of a camelback so no one uses them to sneak it in), as well as the ban on open cigarette packs. Many attendees said the sheer number of security and police made them feel like criminals.

Dan D’Aloisio wrote on the Facebook page, “Had a blaaaast, just wish security wasn’t such a kick in the shins,” to which the festival replied: “Dan you’re right, will be different next time.”

The post continues: “In the coming months, we will work to alleviate some of the issues we all faced, so that we may build upon the foundation created this weekend. From the beginning, we wanted to create and evolve an event with input from you — the ones who took a chance and came out to be a part of this special first weekend. Our ultimate goal is an ever-evolving festival designed as a three-day utopian retreat from the ‘real world’ centered on a cutting edge lineup, world-class food and art. This goal has not changed, and will not change.”

It asks attendees to fill out a survey on the festival with requests for suggestions on how it could be run better. It closes by co-opting the Twitter hashtag created when the festival was washed out, #MudsonProject. “We have a feeling you will never forget it… we know we won’t.”

The effectiveness of the festival’s mea culpa was summed up by attendee Adam Kroner. “It had its ups and downs but continuing to humble yourself and admit the mistakes made restores my faith in The Hudson Project,” he wrote.