Gov Ball offering ticket refunds after stormy evacuation

The 2019 Governors Ball music festival came to a stormy end on Sunday night with an evacuation of the crowded festival grounds. 

Heavy rain and thunderstorms Sunday evening caused organizers to pull the plug on the annual concert at Randall’s Island Park for the second time in its nine-year history. Sunday’s tickets will be fully refunded. “Festival Evacuation: Due to approaching severe weather an evacuation is in effect. Please proceed to the nearest exit,” a message on the Gov Ball Twitter account read shortly after Bazzi and Nas performed around 8:30 p.m.

Thousands of fans swarmed the exits, trying to find a way out of the park by foot. Videos and photos posted by fans on social media showed festivalgoers hopping over barricades on the festival grounds to leave.

Fan Kristin Musulin, who drove from Washington, D.C., to NYC for the festival on Sunday, captured video of what she called “thousands of drunk teens” crossing the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge by foot.

Gov Ball fans were forced to evacuate Randall's Island Park on Sunday. 
Gov Ball fans were forced to evacuate Randall’s Island Park on Sunday.  Photo Credit: Ashley Petit

“About 15 minutes after this, it started down pouring and thundering/lighting. Not the most ideal time to be walking across a bridge,” she said.

A concertgoer described the evacuation as “pandemonium” to Variety and added that people were “walking around aimlessly trying to find their way off the island.” Several fans chose to walk across the bridge that connects the island to Manhattan, rather than wait for festival-arranged shuttle buses.

“After close consultation with NYC officials and law enforcement, it was deemed necessary to cancel the event for the safety of our festival goers, artists and crew,” a statement provided by Gov Ball on Monday read. “We are as devastated as our fans by this decision, but nothing is more important than the safety of all attendees.

While the festival is always rain or shine, we can’t proceed in weather as severe as tonight’s storm and lightning. Evacuation procedures were followed, and at this time, the island is clear of all guests.”

The festival began late after a warning was shared by organizers to fans on social media early Sunday morning that the looming weather report may impact plans. Posts urged fans not to leave for Randall’s Island until after 11:30 a.m.

The festival began seven hours late, around 6:30 p.m. and was canceled after fewer than a dozen artists performed. The festival’s highly anticipated headliners, including The Strokes and SZA, did not perform.

Gov Ball listed on Monday a statement on its website informing fans that refunds will be given to Sunday ticket holders.

Though fans bashed the festival online for branding itself as a “rain or shine” event, organizers said in a statement that "the safety of everyone comes first.”

A letter from councilmen Keith Powers and Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. called upon Gov Ball organizers to provide a refund, stating that instructions on how to exit the festival safely were unclear. "Directions shouted by security staff could not be heard by the crowds of people who were trying to navigate insufficiently labeled exits," the letter read. "Last night, tens of thousands of concert-goers were left with a substandard consumer experience, money lost in travel expenses and exposed to hazardous weather because of Founders Entertainment failure to properly cancel the event with ample notice."

All fans who purchased a ticket to Sunday’s concert will receive a full refund. Fans with three-day passes will be given a pro-rated refund automatically applied to the credit card used at purchase. Transportation purchased through Gov Ball (including bus tickets) will also be refunded for Sunday. Fans who did not purchase tickets directly through Gov Ball are encouraged to contact their ticket seller. Refunds are expected to be processed within 21 days. More info at govball.com/sundayrefund.

The first and only time Gov Ball had previously been canceled due to severe weather was during 2013’s Kings of Leon Friday set, which was rescheduled for the following day.