Fort Reno Concert Series Canceled for 2014

Photo by PoPville flickr user yostinator

A reader sends word via DCist and notes: “I don’t know if you’re a fan, but this is a 40+ year tradition in DC.”

Absolutely horrible news from the Fort Reno organizers:

“Where’s the Schedule?

Around the time that we should have received our finalized permit for this summer, the concert series was informed by National Park Service that U.S. Park Police was imposing a requirement that we pay for an officer to be posted on site at each concert. Inquiry with our ranger led to me placing a call to U.S. Park Police.

U.S. Park Police cited differing reasons as to why this had come up after all these years. The reasons felt vague and when asked for specifics, none were given.

I requested a sit down meeting with NPS and USPP with the hope that our long standing (very good) relationship with NPS coupled with people seeing that we are just folks having a small community related event would bring about a better understanding and resolution.

Two messages to schedule went unanswered and when I did reach someone, a meeting was scheduled for the next morning (yesterday). The meeting happened but none of the invitees attended except myself and one extremely kind NPS employee who works in the office where meetings are held but despite being familiar with the park and the concert series as being an annual event, knew nothing about why the permit was being stalled.

So as it stands today, not only does the concert series not have the funds to cover this cost at the last minute but we don’t feel we should have to do this without just cause. Our feeling is that if something had changed within the operations at NPS or USPP regarding public events since last summer, there was ample time to inform us. NPS has all of my contact information. And this is not a little cost as USPP seems to think. It will literally double the VERY small budget of the concert series. It will affect how many shows can happen because the money must be paid up front. I didn’t even bother to get into what happens if we are dark due to rain…

That all said, with the heaviest of hearts the decision is that the concert series will be dark for 2014 in an effort to resolve this for the future. I hope it goes without saying that this is not the outcome we expected and certainly don’t want.

With love, gratitude and sincerity,
June 26, 2014″

40 Comment

  • That’s a bummer. I’ve never actually been but I was hoping to take my nephew to a few this year.

  • I can’t believe this has come to an end, but apparently too many people were bringing babies and that was making it unsafe for the other concertgoers.

    • Seriously! and just BLOCKS from the White House. Won’t someone think of the children?! Oh, wait. whoops.

  • Down goes another fun event open to everyone, same fate as Shakespeare and the NSO at Carter Barron. Sad trend.

  • Can’t help but think it is related to the guy who was disruptive at the small concert event at the National Zoo. Were the police at the Zoo DC police or NPS police?

    • The concert incident at the Zoo was handled by Smithsonian National Zoo Police, an entirely separate agency, and not DC Police (MPD) or USPP.

  • I like that the burden to make sure you are complying with current policies is on the NPS.

  • I never made it up there. Was it geared mostly toward children and young families?

    • It was very chill and geared to everyone eho wanted to sit in the grass and listen to live music. It was whatever you made it. Really ashame.

  • This is bullshit. This was one of the most benign concert events one could go to. Never witnessed any issues, mostly youngish families and high school kids. Always a great date spot and a way to see some local DC bands for free!

  • I’ve never been, but I will take the opportunity to pile on some NPS hate-fest. They are some truly evil, miserable mofos.

    • I bet you’re the kind of person who would complain if there were disruptive incidents and the police weren’t there fast enough to intervene. Why fling out “hate” when you have no idea what the NPS concerns are? Instead of “piling on some NPS hate-fest” how about making a donation to the Fort Reno program organizers so that they can afford to cover the cost of security!

      • Probably because the NPS has zero transparency and never has to be held accountable for their decisions. They say no, and that is final. They won’t even respond to inquiries concerning why and how this decision was made. Not to mention how horribly they manage nearly everything they touch in DC.

    • this series has been in place for decades and I’ve been going for the past 2. I have never once witnessed a single incident where additional police presence was necessary. NPS is a joke. Fort Reno concerts are a labor of love, there’s little to no $ involved, and no corporate presence whatsoever. It’s supposedly “hip” but doesn’t seem to attract a whole lot of “hipsters”.

    • NPS does a really good job at Carter Barron. Been there many times and never had a bad time.

  • It sounds like they were pretty strictly anti-alcohol. Was it hard to sneak it in?

    • No gates – open park. If you brought booze and drank it obviously, you’d be the asshole potentially ruining it for everyone else.

  • I’ve been going to this concert series for over 10 years. It is an institution that has been operating on an EXTREMELY small budget. These concerts are free, and the artists are not paid. People bring picnics and babies. Adolescents (me 10 years ago) gather on the field in the back.

    If there needs to be a member of park police there, fine. But let Amanda know 9 months ago when she starts submitting permits so she has time to raise 100% community-provided funds. Another loss of a wonderful, free event for the community. Job well done, DC.

  • This is so sad. I’ve gone to several shows a year since 94-ish and there has never been a single problem at a show I’ve been to. It’s always an amazing mix of people lounging around listening to music and eating dinner or bomb-pops from the ice cream man. Usually you can spot a Park Police car or MPD car cruising by, but they don’t linger because, well, it’s just a bunch of families and teens lounging around listening to music and eating dinner or bomb-pops from the ice cream man. I’ve worked with NPS to plan events around the city and had similar experiences. As MacKaye indicated, the most frustrating part is the lack of communication and effort with permit applicants.

  • Maybe someone could help the organizers crowd fund the extra money? I am not good at that kind of thing but I’ll bet there are plenty of Popvillers who are experts at non-profit fundraising. Maybe bring on a corporate sponsor like Wal-Mart, Giant, Safeway, Trader Joes, CVS, Whole Foods, Comet Pin Pong?

  • I don’t understand why the organizer thought NPS or any agency would reach out to her to let her know of the change. As the concert organizer, shouldn’t you keep up with those changes? Shouldn’t you reach out to NPS or whatever agency every single year and not just assume that everything will stay the same year after year?

    • janie4

      Because typically when agency policy changes, it’s the agency’s responsibility to inform program participants that the policy has changed. This can be done through website and the Federal Register, but given that the organizers were in touch with the agency during the permitting process, it probably should have come up.

      Amanda – bummer on the total non-attended meeting. When that happens, it usually means the other side thinks that they’ve done their job and that clearly you failed or are making a molehill out of nothing, and they don’t want to be bothered with you. I imagine that the policy is due to some one somewhere at NPS saying all events over x number of people or open to the public have to pay for security, not anything having to do with you.

  • There has to be some way to get around this – there are eleventy billion lawyers in that neighborhood who probably take their kids to those concerts. Also, couldn’t people petition NPS to reconsider or to work with them to figure out a solution? There has to be something that can be done…

  • brookland_rez

    Well that sucks.

  • Add me to the NPS hate. Those people seem to exist solely to make locals despise them. What a horrible, ass-backwards agency when it comes to policies around DC. I have been trying to permit an event through them for years and have nothing but awful things to say about every contact I’ve had.

  • I suggest filing a complaint with the DOI Inspector General concerning NPS’s lack of transparency.

  • I agree with whomever mentioned crowdfunding the money to keep the concerts going! With all of the people who have gone to the concerts for free, some for decades, it shouldn’t be that difficult! I live in the community and would definitely donate; it gives my husband, puppy and I a place to spend summer nights.

    • clevelanddave

      You know IMHO most of the crowdfunding of stuff, particularly for profit businesses is bs (love you Fishwife but bad idea), however this is what crowdfunding was meant for: non profit, low budget, community oriented. All those that appreciate this kind of thing or have attended should make it their business to contribute (after all those free concerts- a moment to give back) and doing something to help. Could be using a contact at NPS or DOI to help the organizers get this straight; doing a little legal pro bono work to make sure after decades they are being treated fairly; or just throwing a few bucks into the kitty.

  • this could breathe new life into Fort Reno series. Guerilla concerts all summer. Make NPS come out and break them up.

  • Isn’t this something to escalate to Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office,

  • When federal budget gets cut, support to free small scale community events will be cut first (low hanging fruit). I am sure this event was a “small” scale community event a few years ago. However, by looking at the picture on this post and assumed number of people attending….it is no longer a “small” community event. I am sure NPS is responsible for security and clean up after each event and it cuts into their budget. NPS really don’t have to explain a thing to anyone=no money= no permit=sequestration.

    • Lol you’re never even been! It’s a public benefit that far out weights any conceivable -non existent cost. The concerts clean up after them selves. This is just bad governance all around! The DC government could make the NPS look like the assholes they are by allowing this to happen across the street on Wilson’s steps.

      • Hmmm…..public freebies are the first ones to go under the current fiscal situation….everyone must feel tha pain!

  • Okay, so, can we just raise the money to pay for the security? Then NPS gets the funding they need in order to patrol/clean up after the event, the events go on, everyone is happy.

    If the budget is really THAT small, and this “literally doubles the budget”, then, presumably it’s not that much money? I don’t even go to these concerts but I’d chip in a few dollars. Seems like a simple problem to solve, or at least try to.

  • it’s not the money — though small — like much of the Fort Reno concert series, this is based on principal. I admire that. I have no doubt the organizers could crowd source the necessary funding, even on short notice.

  • There’s a petition you can sign at

    It sounds like the news coverage over the last day has led the NPS to contact Amanda. Hopefully they can explain this unexplained change and this can be resolved.

  • I share the outrage over Fort Reno concerts. And would like to express similar outrage over another NPS facility, the Carter Barron Amphitheater. That venue used to be busy throughout the whole summer with concerts, movies, dance shows and other community events. However, over the last couple of years their schedule has been shrinking year over year. This year, they haven’t even released the schedule yet. And NPS website states events will begin on August 8! What happened to WaPo and NSO concerts in June and July?! Last year we called NPS to inquire and they quoted sequestration as the reason for reduced schedule. This year it looks like they’ve totally given up

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