Virginia Beach City Councilman Rouse says city 'squandered' opportunity in Something in the Water cancellation

Gates now open at Something in the Water Festival
Posted at 4:41 PM, Oct 06, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - City Councilman Aaron Rouse said the city "squandered a wonderful opportunity" in the cancellation of the Something in the Water Festival.

Rouse said the city had an inability to "confront the reality of life in front of us" on issues like diversity and inclusion.

A festival organizer told News 3 on Tuesday Pharrell would not be bringing the festival back to the city in 2022. It was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

The cancellation of the festival is sending ripples throughout the city. A city spokesperson told News 3 the city learned last week Pharrell might cancel the festival next year. City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote Pharrell a letter to try and sit down and find a way to still make it happen.

"With great humility, we hope that you and festival leadership might be willing to meet with us in person to discuss our partnership," Duhaney wrote to Pharrell.

Pharrell responded Tuesday, saying there is "toxic energy" in city leadership.

Pharrell referenced the city's responses to the mass shooting in 2019 and the police killing of Donovon Lynch at the Oceanfront in March 2021, saying the city "changed the narrative" around the circumstances of Lynch's killing. Pharrell says Lynch was a cousin.

Virginia Beach Police gave conflicting accounts in March over whether Lynch brandished a gun at an officer, eventually saying he did. The officer who shot and killed Lynch failed to activate his body-worn camera.

Virginia State Police told News 3 Wednesday the case remains under investigation and there are no updates at this time.

Local pastor Gary McCollum spoke with News 3 Wednesday about the festival's cancellation. He is a family friend of the Lynch family.

"First it was this. Then it was that - a fine young man whose father mentored many in the community. The city just didn't do the right thing," McCollum said.

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer issued a statement on behalf of the city on Wednesday, saying he still hoped to sit down with Pharrell and address his concerns. The statement echoed comments he made to News 3 on Tuesday night.

"Let's talk. Come to an agreement. Let's try to find a positive bridge and see if we can move forward again," he said.

Rouse put it bluntly in his statement about the killing of Lynch. "So ask yourself this, if the city where your cousin was killed showed more concern for a festival than for the life of a deceased family member, would you still put on a festival?"