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Locals react to 'Something in the Water' returning to Virginia Beach in 2023

In 2019, Virginia Beach leaders said the music festival generated $21 million in economic impact. Business owners hope for similar results in 2023.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — "Something in the Water" will return to Hampton Roads next year.

Festival founder and music icon Pharrell Williams announced the popular music festival will take place in Virginia Beach on April 28 - 30, 2023.

The news is making waves throughout the region, especially for business owners at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

"It was just great news. We were just happy to hear it,” said John Zirkle, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association.

For Zirkle, the popular music festival's return is music to his ears.

The news is something business owners around the Oceanfront have hoped and waited for. It could mean thousands of visitors and a huge economic spark.

In 2019, Virginia Beach leaders said hotel occupancy hit 90% as part of the festival's $21 million economic impact on the city.

“No we’re looking to say, 'Do we have the rooms? How many rooms do we have?'" said Zirkle.

But there were doubts if the festival would ever return.

After COVID-19 led to the festival's cancellation in 2020, the next year, festival founder Pharrell penned a letter indicating he didn't want to bring Something in the Water back to Virginia Beach, citing "toxic energy."

Pharrell also referenced the city's response to the death of his cousin, Donovon Lynch, who was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer in 2021.

Since then, city leaders said they and Pharrell have discussed a path forward.

"We have to put differences aside and figure out what’s good for everybody," said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.

“Understanding friends can have tough conversations to get to the place where we are today," said Councilman Aaron Rouse. "If you have an issue, you address it head-on, which is what we’ve done.”

Back at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, George Frank is excited about what this means for his business, Sunnyside Cafe and Restaurant.

Frank got a taste of the festival's impact three years ago and said customers haven't stopped asking if it or when it would return.

“Unfortunately, we hadn’t heard anything until now," he said.

Now businesses have about five months to prepare for the music festival, which sold out its first 25,000 tickets in nearly 20 minutes in 2019.

Zirkle told 13News Now hotels had just found out about the festival and along with other planned events, that April weekend will be packed at the Oceanfront.

He encourages people to book hotels early.

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