Managing ‘a zillion moving parts’ to create an all-day music extravaganza
Save the Date: July 13, 2019
When longtime Pleasantville resident Bruce Figler attended his first ever Pleasantville Music Festival, it was in 2005. That happened to be the inaugural year for the event, and Figler, who has been in the radio business, helped the original founders hook in a music station to be part of the all-day affair.
“I was perfectly happy sitting backstage with a beer hanging out with the radio station people, with the bands, going on stage introducing an act, hanging out with my family in the field for awhile,” Figler said.
“That was my life, it was a pretty easy life.”
Fast-forward more than a decade later, and Figler, who owns Creative Sound Works on Wheeler Avenue, is now the executive director of the yearly music festival that brings about 4,000 people to Parkway Field to hear a jam packed lineup of musical talent perform. His life is a little busier now than back in 2005 with months of planning going into the creation of the festival.
Figler works with an executive staff of about ten people and a volunteer base of more than 100 that live in the region (mostly Pleasantville and Chappaqua). Each year, he and staff members discuss what worked and what didn’t work that year with the desire to be more efficient the following year. A survey is also sent to attendees so Figler can receive feedback.
Once a review of the previous year is over, finding a new set of bands gets underway as early as December. Figler said he and the other staff members try to nail down different musicians that will please a wide range of demographics with Figler compiling a “wish list” of about 30 bands and musicians he’d love to go after.
But because the festival is a municipally run–rather than private–event, there are limitations Figler has to grapple with. Other festivals can offer more money to performers and some festivals have exclusivity rights, which means a band can’t perform within a certain radius within a certain time frame. He estimated that for every ten more prominent bands/musicians he reaches out to, seven reject him.
For the bigger bands, Figler said he tells them if they come to Pleasantville, it would be “an easier festival, it’s very manageable, you can be in and out pretty quickly.”
Additionally, because the festival is involved with a radio station (107.1 The Peak), that station supports the booked musicians which result in airtime for them leading up to the festival. A band could find a new base of fans in the suburbs, Figler said.
While the pursuit of big acts can be an arduous task, the festival also needs to find smaller bands and musicians, which begins two or three months before the festival.
Up and coming bands can submit through the festival’s website with staff members taking trips to hear different contending bands. “We’re becoming very diverse musically so I try to find something for everyone,” Figler said.
Pleasantville resident Jim Zimmerman, who founded the music festival in 2005 with Bernie Gordon and the late Lisa Wenzel, said the first year he helped put it together, it was like a second full-time job. Part of his motivation to start the festival was to give smaller bands and musicians a larger stage to perform. Some bands have gone on to bigger and better things, he pointed out.
“I had to develop all the systems and recruit so it was quite a project nevertheless,” Zimmerman said. “Everything had to be done by scratch.” Figler joked he doesn’t have to create the wheel like Zimmerman did, only keep it spinning.
While the music lineup is the most significant set to put together, Figler has to secure sponsors and vendors, many of which are eateries from Pleasantville and surrounding towns. There is also a push by a recycling group to ensure it is a zero waste event. Law enforcement and the department of public works are conferred with considering this is the largest public gathering in the small village each year.
The day of the event, Figler said weather is always an uncontrolled variable that has to be monitored. The last three years there has either been rain or a threat of a storm so the village recreational offices become a makeshift weather station. Said Figler: “There’s a zillion moving parts to this thing.”