Downtown businesses eagerly await Patriotic Festival boost

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The unofficial start to summer in Hampton Roads is typically a slower weekend for many downtown Norfolk businesses, however, there are high hopes the Patriotic Festival will change that .

Thursday night, as an army of technicians began setting up the 40ft by 50ft main stage on Waterside Drive, staff at Baxter’s Sports Bar – a mile away – made sure they had enough food and of drinks for a Memorial Day weekend. they have never seen before.

“We are very excited. We are expecting a lot of flow here,” said Megan Harrison, a waitress at the restaurant. “We are of course doubly stocked with food. We are ready.”

Traditionally, the downtown Norfolk sports bar is the least of owner Baxter Simmons’ worries on Memorial Day weekend. His other restaurant is the Paradise Ocean Club in Hampton: an expansive beachfront bar, restaurant and entertainment venue that’s a magnet when the weather warms up.

“That Friday night gig will keep us busy in Norfolk though,” Simmons said Thursday. “It will energize the whole city center on a normally quiet weekend.”

On Friday night, country star Jon Pardi will take the stage inside the nearby Scope Arena as the first of three festival headliners. On Saturday night, Kane Brown will burst into the venue being built along Waterside Drive. Sunday night, Morgan Wallen will play to a sold-out crowd.

The Patriotic Festival has made the much-publicized move to downtown Norfolk after 18 years at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

During the announcement last October, Patriotic Festival President Ira Agricola spoke of the need for a covered place to go to in case of bad weather. However, he also hinted that the bureaucratic process in Virginia Beach was becoming daunting.

Following several violent and deadly incidents in its downtown arts and entertainment district, the importance of hosting a safe festival has become even greater for Norfolk. Harrison thinks they will succeed.

Increased police patrols and new mobile surveillance cameras have been implemented in recent months.

“It slowed down a lot of the activity that was going on. It got much better. [Police] walking the streets patrolling and it makes it easier for us,” Harrison said.

Security will also be reinforced near the paying site. Everyone will have to go through a metal detector to get in. City of Norfolk dump trucks will block the street to ensure no one can drive through the crowds.

“Nobody’s ever shut this down before,” said Patriot Festival board member Glen Robertson. “It is a historic day. Historic weekend in Norfolk.

David H. Henry