Free Press Summer Fest

FPSF on Track Despite Flooding, Afra Says

With Free Press Summer Fest now just ten days away, the grounds for Houston's annual two-day music festival remain underwater after Monday's massive overnight flooding. But one of FPSF's top officials says all systems are still go.

“We're watching this like everybody else, but we're planning on putting on a kickass show,” says Omar Afra, who co-founded FPSF in 2009 with Pegstar Concerts' Jagi Katial. “It's not like this weather doesn't make things any easier, but we're plowing ahead like we always do. We know the routine.”

Afra noted that the festival has experienced inclement weather every year except 2012, and said that production crews had not begun setting up in the park yet. “Very small elements” will begin later this week and early next week, he added. The festival also released its schedule Monday at, and Afra insists fans' well-being is foremost in the organizers' minds.

“They're not just customers to us,” he says. “Our own kids and friends, girlfriends, wives and coworkers are out there at the festival, so us keeping safety No. 1 is us taking care of our own. There's no distinction between family and attendees.”

The FPSF organizers meet with city officials and their production team year-round, Afra says, as well as other agencies like Emergency Management Services and the Army Corps of Engineers. The entire purpose of all those meetings is to avoid getting caught off-guard, he notes.

“When you take on something of this magnitude, you can't just say, 'Well, I hope it's gonna go reasonably well,” Afra explains, pointing to last year's evacuation of the park on the festivals first day, brought on by nearby lightning. “You don't get that luxury; you have to plan for every eventuality. If you want to have a safe show, then you've gotta go through every wormhole to find out what could/would happen, and be prepared.”

“The people who are working on this are way more capable than me,” Afra adds. “Charlie Hernandez is our production manager, who has done everything from Live Aid to Metallica; he's done it all. Him, our site manager Tony Terwilliger, who's done a dozen major festivals – these are really top-notch guys.”

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the nonprofit that oversees development along central Houston's main waterway, including FPSF's home of Eleanor Tinsley Park, posted the following message on its Facebook page Tuesday.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is evaluating the situation in Buffalo Bayou Park (Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street), however, the preliminary assessment is that the park did not experience major damage. Please know that all the amenities in the park (benches, trash receptacles, lighting, etc.) have been designed to withstand severe storm water events. As the water recedes, please stay tuned for further updates and be careful when traveling along Buffalo Bayou and the downtown area.

However, the situation has led to a few amusing comments on the FSPF Facebook page, including:

* “Is there a place to safely park our kayaks?”
* “Do you have floating stages”?

On the announcement of an exclusive Fancy Pants set by the DJ Diplo:
* “Will he be wearing a wet suit and snorkel?”

A user named Bryan Rumbaugh also posted this video, where a drone surveys all the flooding on the FSPF grounds. It's pretty impressive.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray