"Something in the Water” is drawing thousands of people to Virginia Beach from all over.
City leaders are happy about the diverse group of artists, as they hope to appeal to the different communities in Virginia Beach and strike down stigmas that have long stuck with the city, suggesting it may not be an inclusive city for all.
“Any kind of different person who walks in, I want to be prepared to make sure they have a good time,” said popular local act, DJ CanRock.
A well-known figure in the Hampton Roads nightlife and music scene, he said that’s always been an ongoing conversation.
“Diversity is huge as a form of DJing because you don't want to play the same music all night,” he said.
If you look into a crowd that DJ CanRock plays for across Hampton Roads, you'll notice just how different everyone is.
“Being diverse as a DJ is even more important because of how diverse this area is,” he said.
For him, an accomplished local DJ who has performed with A-list hip-hop artists, the science of inclusion is fairly simple.
“You can break that down to something as simple as food. Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day,” DJ CanRock told 13News Now.
But, take that and apply it to an entire city, things get a little more complicated.
Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer is bringing that to the forefront since taking the seat in November.
“We're really trying to be an inclusive city,” he said.
He recognizes that despite there being diverse communities within the city, the reputation has not lived up to that variance.
“Virginia Beach, locally, outside of this community, has, at some point in time, had a stigma of not being welcoming,” said Mayor Dyer.
How do you plan to or how do you overcome that?
“You change the culture. You evolve into it but you have to be legitimate,” the Mayor responded.
The Virginia Beach Economic Development statistics show 64 percent of the city's population is white and just 19 percent is black. Furthermore, just about nine percent is Hispanic, and seven percent is Asian.
“One of the strengths that we have here in Virginia Beach is the people and I mean all the people,” said the Mayor.
Virginia Beach is in the national spotlight as it hosts the "Something in the Water" music festival put on by Virginia Beach-native Pharrell Williams. The city hopes the festival will bring fresh, innovative ideas to a weekend historically known as "College Beach Weekend."
“Let's be honest, College Weekend had a bit of a stigma over the years, but once again, through adversity, let's find opportunities and let's show all people that all people are welcome here,” Dyer stressed.
“I think Virginia Beach has played it safe for a long time. They've been bringing in older rock groups, older reggae groups and then country acts. That's really all you see in the Virginia Beach festivals,” DJ CanRock explained.
Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten thinks the festival is a turning point for the city when it comes to the diversity discussion, including race and age.
“This is a different time, I believe,” she said. “I think it's important for us to be intentional about representing the population. When you look at our past, people have some negative things to say sometimes, and I think it's important for leadership to get involved because it shows that we're changing.”
“Now we have something more geared towards the youth. We have hip-hop. We have R&B, even experimental. We have DJs. We have across the platform,” said DJ CanRock.
That platform will soon be center stage for thousands of people.
“We're hoping this feeling of good and well-being becomes infectious,” the Mayor said.