T.G. Rich had a dream to put on a beach music festival where everybody would hang out, drink a beer and listen to good tunes.
He came up with the idea after attending the Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival for many years. He’d be right in front of the stage each year and see people he knew from Garner.
In the 1990s, after its 25th year, the festival had its last show. Rich, the owner of a Pelican’s SnoBalls in Raleigh, reached out to its founders to see if the Emerald Isle sponsors would want to be involved in a show in Garner that Rich would host.
And sure enough the sponsors said “yes.”
In 1998, at Rich’s first show, 700 people came, and instead of making a profit, he lost $98,000.
“It was terrible,” he said. “You clean up after everybody on Sunday afternoon and you lost your rear end and you think, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ But you have to crawl before you walk.”
Rich kept going, and on Saturday he’ll host his 17th Triangle Beach Music Festival in Garner. After co-founders Jeff Tippette and Steven Bax left, his sister, Beth Setzer, stepped in to help turn the event around. By the fourth year, they made $250.
“I was out of debt, and ($250) felt like $250,000,” Rich said. “I felt like a king. When you pay that money back to people, word gets around and everybody wants your business.”
He said he kept going because he loves beach music and loves seeing people having fun. This past year, the show drew more than 16,000.
Rich said he and his sister complement each other.
“She is business savvy,” he said. “She knows the business. She does all the inside work. I do all the outside work. We’re a good team.”
Rich credits his sister for helping him get out of debt.
“Yes, well, that is true,” Setzer joked. “I had a little more success in managing the business side of it and keeping the cost down and trying to involve the community by working out some sponsorships so we didn’t have to put up all the money up front.”
Setzer, a stay-at-home mom, said she changed their approach on advertising the show by starting social media marketing campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They had a selfie contests, where people can win tickets to the show. She said they were able to capture a lot of new fans in addition to the ones they already had.
Each year, Rich and Setzer turn Bryan Farms on New Bethel Church Road into a concert venue.
The festival typically brings in 10,000-15,000 people from across the Triangle, depending on the weather and economy, Setzer said. The event happens rain or shine.
Rich said he’s had people from 27 different states buy tickets. The demographic ranges from college kids to those who are about 45 years old. The beach music festival is usually the last Saturday in April, and has gotten bigger every year except 2014. He isn’t sure why ticket sales were stagnant last year, but he believes this year’s marketing campaign will help them break attendance records.
“Probably 18-20,000 (people) if tickets sales keep going like they are going now,” Rich said.
There will be four bands that will play from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There will also be merchandise for sale, food vendors and tents. Attendees can bring their own coolers.
At the end of the event, attendees who have had too much to drink are encouraged not to drive. Taxis line up outside the farm to take anyone who has been drinking to their destination. Rich said people can leave their cars overnight but need to pick them up by April 27 at 6 p.m.
“It’s an event,” Rich said. “It’s a lot of work but I look forward to the hard work as much as everybody enjoys going to them. It’s a good, clean day of having fun.”
Want to go?
When: April 25. Gates open at 9:30 a.m.
Where: Bryan Farms, 1832 New Bethel Church Road, Garner.
Tickets: $20 at trianglebeach.com.
Bands: Band of Oz , Fantastic Shakers , Sleeping Booty and The Dickens