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May 16, 2011 4:04 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

MTK Festival Gets FAA Nod Of Approval

May 17, 2011 1:24 PM

The Federal Aviation Administration has signed off on the first MTK: Music To Know festival at East Hampton Airport this August, meaning the festival’s founders have cleared their last governmental hurdle after spending five months seeking the necessary approvals.

The FAA nod came in the form of a letter from Thomas Felix, a planning and programming manager for the federal agency, to Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson last Tuesday, one day after tickets for the festival went on sale as its 18-band lineup was revealed.

Vampire Weekend and Bright Eyes will headline MTK on Saturday, August 13, and Sunday, August 14, respectively. The festival—potentially the forerunner of an annual event—will take place in a field at the end of runway 4-22, which is unused.

The FAA reviewed plans for the festival throughout the spring, according to Mr. Felix’s letter, engaging town officials and the event’s organizers in a back-and-forth over the agency’s concerns. The letter quotes the town’s assurances that planned safety controls and security are adequate, and that the town has sufficient insurance coverage to protect taxpayers from any liability.

“Note that this is not an FAA endorsement of the event itself,” Mr. Felix’s letter continues, “nor does this letter provide immunity from future lawsuits or user complaints of non-compliance should the town fail to live up to its assertions for the duration of the event.”

MTK co-founder Chris Jones had only positive things to say about the review process last Friday.

“They reviewed things very thoroughly,” Mr. Jones said of the FAA. “There were several meetings and dialogues with them and, as an agency, it was a great process.”

Four days after tickets became available, Mr. Jones said he was pleased with early sales—and particularly surprised by the movement of high-priced VIP passes, although he could not provide numbers. Two-day general admission passes are $195, while VIP passes are $695.55. Mr. Jones and his co-founder, Bill Collage have pledged $100,000 of the festival’s proceeds to seven local charities.

MTK, which organizers anticipate will draw as many as 9,500 attendees, has travelled a rocky path to approval since Mr. Jones and Mr. Collage unveiled their plans at a Town Board work session last December. The Town Board approved their original plan—which included siting the festival at Ocean View Farm in Amagansett—in a split decision two weeks later, spurring weeks of protest, a petition and a lawsuit by residents of the hamlet.

In February, the organizers applied to move the festival to the airport, and the Town Board approved the switch in April. For weeks, they waited for a nod from the FAA. Last Monday, they decided to put tickets up for sale and announce the lineup even before getting the go-ahead, although at that point, Mr. Jones said he was confident approval was around the corner. It came the next day.

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