Freaknik must find new location after contract deemed ‘invalid’

Rapper Juvenile at the BIG3 3-on-3 basketball league game on August 25, 2019 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. The rapper is part of the 2020 Freaknik lineup in Atlanta. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

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Rapper Juvenile at the BIG3 3-on-3 basketball league game on August 25, 2019 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. The rapper is part of the 2020 Freaknik lineup in Atlanta. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Freaknik will still take place this summer as planned, but the location is now TBD.

Organizers of last year’s successfully resurrected music and cultural gathering – an oft-controversial event rooted in Atlanta’s history – announced last week that the event would return as the three-day Freak World, June 19-21, at Cascade Driving Range.

But Carlos Neal of Atlanta-based After 9, the promotion company behind the Freaknik revival, said on Tuesday that he has been told the contract he signed with Cascade Driving Range in December is no longer valid.

Neal said his agreement was made with Samuel Tompkins, identified as an owner of the driving range. But when the "true owner" was made aware of the event after it was publicized last week in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and on social media, "They said Mr. Tompkins did not have the authority to sign off on an agreement for an event," Neal said. "I think they took a look at the popularity of Freaknik and the advance sales and said you know what? Sorry, but not sorry. It's unfortunate, because I wanted to keep the dollars in the black community."

Douglas Crawford, co-managing partner of Grey Partners LLC, which owns Cascade Driving Range, confirmed to the AJC that “the document didn’t become known to the owner of the property” until recently and would only say that it was “an invalid contract.”

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A crowd gathers on the lawn to listen to music during the FreakNik 2019 concert at the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Saturday, June 22, 2019. About 15,000 tickets were sold to the event. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

A crowd gathers on the lawn to listen to music during the FreakNik 2019 concert at the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Saturday, June 22, 2019. About 15,000 tickets were sold to the event. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

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A crowd gathers on the lawn to listen to music during the FreakNik 2019 concert at the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Saturday, June 22, 2019. About 15,000 tickets were sold to the event. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

Neal maintains that Tompkins – who declined to comment - has booked more than 25 events at the driving range during his long tenure there. Now Neal is forced to relocate after months of negotiating with area businesses including Changing a Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church and Greenbriar Mall for parking space for attendees. (“I’m still going to pay the church for parking because I appreciate that they were going to work with us,” he said.)

Neal said he’s sold out of 2,000 “blind tickets” – those put on sale before the full lineup is announced – and has received more than 300 vendor applications.

He’s in negotiations with a handful of alternate locations and will decide by the end of the week where Freaknik 2020 – and Freak World – will take place. He’s also raising the admission age to 25 (anyone under that age must be escorted by someone 25 or older).

“I’m going to let the cosmic universe determine where we’re going to be,” Neal said.

But there is no concern about Freaknik 2020 being canceled.

“I’d make it free before I’d cancel it,” Neal said. “This isn’t just about money; it’s a legacy definer.”

He is also willing to refund any customer who might not want to attend at the to-be-determined location. Tickets are currently on sale for $49.99 for a three-day general admission pass and $164.99 for three-day VIP via www.freaknikfest.com.

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Kenyatta Sipp dances to the music on the lawn during FreakNik Atlanta ‘19 - The Festival at the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Saturday, June 22, 2019. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

Kenyatta Sipp dances to the music on the lawn during FreakNik Atlanta ‘19 - The Festival at the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Saturday, June 22, 2019.  (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

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Kenyatta Sipp dances to the music on the lawn during FreakNik Atlanta ‘19 - The Festival at the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Saturday, June 22, 2019. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

Last year’s Freaknik nearly sold out the 20,000-capacity Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood with a lineup that included Project Pat, Uncle Luke, Da Brat and Foxy Brown.

Neal plans for 40-50 acts for the expanded Freaknik and has so far announced New Orleans rapper Juvenile and Florida exports 69 Boyz and 2 Live Crew (sans Uncle Luke).

Neal knows that the reputation of the annual ‘90s-era Freaknik, which often devolved into wild parties in the streets with public nudity, will never fully wane. But he was hopeful that the success of the 2019 return – coupled with the mature audience who experienced the day-long event – would signal a change in perception.

He cites support he’s received from people including Georgia House Representative David Dreyer and South Fulton councilman Khalid Kamau.

“It’s frustrating,” Neal said, “because no matter how many times we say this isn’t the Freaknik of the ‘90s, people are going to say, ‘It’s the Freaknik of the ‘90s.’ But what balances it out is the response of so many people who say, we’ll follow you anywhere if it’s safe. I’m literally humbled by (that support).”

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