Something in the Water created a new ‘vibe’ for Virginia Beach, especially at the Oceanfront. Just ask festival goers

Something in the Water festival goers start to converge to the Oceanfront. (Southside Daily/Julia Marsigliano)
Something in the Water festival goers start to converge to the Oceanfront. (Southside Daily/Julia Marsigliano)

VIRGINIA BEACH — For many who were at the Oceanfront this weekend, there was more than just Something in the Water.

The last weekend of April has been known as an “organized chaos,” with College Beach Weekend – there were just not a lot of activities for students converging at the Oceanfront. The result, as authorities would attest, is a weekend filled with incidents and arrests.

Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams collaborated with his A-list buddies and city officials and came up with an elaborate festival that many see as a positive venture for the Resort City.

Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “Something in the Water is as much Williams’ love letter to his home city and state as it is a festival and community-organizing event.”

Mayor Bobby Dyer in a tweet said Virginia Beach will be the “city of yes.”

“Yes to opportunity. Yes to inclusion. Yes to new ideas and yes to moving ahead,” the mayor posted.

Pete Morilla, a college student from Richmond, came with his friends and immediately noticed a different “vibe.” He said he was at the Oceanfront last year for College Beach, and often found himself anxious, guarded and cautious.

Not this time around.

“This is something else,” Morilla said. “There’s plenty of things for young people and others to do. It really is something else.”

Sunday, the final day of the festival, began with a pop-up church service, what’s been dubbed as an “inclusive” service. Lines started to form even as the church service was still going on.

It was similar to a revival of sorts, said one attendee – but it set the tone of the day.

The rest of the day featured similar activities, but different acts on stage. Saturday night’s highlight was a performance by Pharrell and Friends, with a surprise appearance from Jay-Z (minus Beyoncé).


“I’m excited,” said Nia Wellman, 22 from Hampton University and a featured speaker on the “Is the American Dream a Myth? The Fight for Education Equity” panel at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. As a featured ‘Conversations’ speaker, she also got to attend the music festival and was interested in seeing “honestly everybody.”

“I’m interested in learning some new music,” she said.

There were some griping about traffic, parking, the shuttles, etc., but the mood in general appears to be upbeat. A woman waiting in line for a trolley even commented the weather has a lot to do with people’s moods.

That, and the experience.

“We wouldn’t afford to go,” said Lindsey Johnson, 20, also from Hampton University. Both Johnson and her friend, Tanea Harris, 19, signed up on the Something in the Water website as volunteers, which means after their shift, they can go to the festival for free.

When asked which artists Steve Weatherspoon, 35, from Chesapeake wanted to see, he said Jay-Z because that would be something different and a lot of money coming to Virginia Beach.

“He’s here,” Weatherspoon said.

Carlos Serrano, 32, came to the event from Northern Virginia with his friends and stayed a friend’s house in Norfolk.


Serrano was looking forward to seeing “everyone” and was one of many three-day tickets holders who received a 33 percent refund after Friday’s show was cancelled.

Bruce Orozco, 18, an exercise science major from Old Dominion University, decided to crash the festival with a couple of his college friends, right before finals week.

They got to the beach around 11 a.m. Saturday with little traffic. Once at the Oceanfront, they took naps on the beach, checked out the Something in the Water Art Walk, a pop-up art installation, got free samples of food from nearby events and even went for a swim.

“The water is ice cold,” he said.

Indeed, the water is cold, but festival goers didn’t seem to mind.

“It’s a lot better than just walking around and finding nothing to do,” Morilla said.



RELATED STORY: Something in the Water scenes: The flavor, festival crashers and ‘I’ll be sure not to do this again’

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.