A weekend-long music festival that was expected to draw hundreds of people to a Brunswick campground was shut down by the state Wednesday afternoon, two days before it was supposed to begin, according to its promoters.

Summer Jam Camp Out 2020, a 48-hour live-music festival with more than a dozen bands, was scheduled to begin Friday afternoon and run through Sunday at Thomas Point Beach & Campground.

The campground owner and festival promoters said a representative of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development told them they could not proceed with the festival because of the live-music stage and the fact that more than 50 tickets were sold. They wouldn’t say exactly how many were sold, but they were hoping for 500 people.

Promoters hoped to win state approval for the event by presenting a plan that respected regulations prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people by promising to spread people out among campsites to minimize large congregations. The state rejected that idea, and told promoters to cancel the event, said campground owner Mike Mulligan.

Mulligan said he submitted his plan to the state on June 23 and updated it several times through that week, as details evolved. He said he got a call at about 3 p.m. Wednesday from the Department of Economic Development saying he could not proceed. He criticized the state for waiting so long to give him an answer.

“If we had gotten a yes or no last week, we would have announced it. That is why we waited. We thought, ‘If they’re considering it for this long, that shows promise,’ ” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Economic and Community Development did not respond Thursday to questions about the festival or the reason it was canceled.

The campground and concert promoters, FJRT Music Productions of Portland, were widely criticized on social media and elsewhere for attempting to move forward with the festival. Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge said his office received several calls and other correspondence from people who were concerned about the festival and surprised that it was still being promoted as late as Wednesday afternoon. Advance tickets cost $90 for music and camping.

Some people asked the Brunswick Police Department to investigate the event as possible fraud, because it seemed impossible the concert could proceed, Eldridge said. A police spokesperson did not respond to a request to discuss the status of those complaints Thursday.

“A lot of people were asking, with so many fairs and festivals canceled, how could something like this take place given the COVID-19 protocols,” Eldridge said. “How could they be selling tickets?”

Mulligan said he understood the decision to cancel the festival, but was frustrated by it because he believed he and his team presented a safe and creative plan, which he described as “pioneering” and “an example of what the future could be” for outdoor summer festivals during the pandemic. Because the campground is open and allowed to rent campsites, Thomas Point is already legally gathering people together, he said. He wanted to treat music as part of the mix of attractions available to campers. The state said no, he said.

“We just can’t cancel summer. That is the obvious safest choice, but if there is another safe choice that is also possible, we felt it was a socially responsible thing to do to see if we could provide it,” Mulligan said. “We were hoping for approval from the DECD, but it didn’t come. We were hoping the other story that people would be writing this weekend was not about the controversy, but about what the re-envisioning of what a safe event could look like.”

Roger Cyr, one of the partners in FJRT Music Productions, said refunds would be offered next week, though they may try to reschedule the event. It was supposed to be a gathering of 14 or so jam, funk, psychedelic and rock bands. Promoters originally hoped to sell 1,000 tickets, but dropped that number to 500, Cyr said.

“We had a plan in place. We had six feet between tents, we had more than enough bathrooms and hand-washing stations. We were requiring everyone to wear masks, we were going to do temperature checks at the gate,” he said.

Mulligan said people who bought tickets were still welcome to camp this weekend. “They already made their plans and packed their car,” he said. “There’s no music, but they’re welcome to come and camp.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.