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That’s a wrap. The inaugural, three-day Grandoozy music festival saw more than 55,000 attendees walk through the gates at Overland Park Golf Course from September 14 to 16. There was music and yoga and fireworks and a whole lot of Bud Light—oh, and blazing temperatures, despite the late summer timing.
Grandoozy marked the first major music festival to take over Denver since the Mile High Music Festival went on a permanent hiatus in 2011. So, how’d it go?
“For a first-year event, we’re very proud of what we put out there. We’re proud of the programming. We thought there was a great vibe,” says Jonathan Mayers, co-founder of Superfly, the event producer. (Superfly is behind the long-standing Bonnaroo and Outside Lands music festivals.) “You’re very much experimenting in a first year.”
There certainly were some things worth raving about: A solid lineup of headliners (Kendrick Lamar, Florence & the Machine, and Stevie Wonder). An effort to highlight local bands. The oh-so-Colorado, non-music activities, including yoga, South Park-themed carnival games, and panel conversations on environmental issues and the outdoors. A celebration of local food and drink, from an entire tent devoted to craft beers to eats that ranged from well-known Illegal Pete’s to Comal Heritage Food Incubator, which trains women, many of whom are immigrants or refugees, in the culinary arts.
We were also impressed by how clean the grounds were every day, and the porta-potties, too. The two entrances helped disperse crowds, keeping security lines fairly short. And event organizers did a great job of providing information—on the website and through the app—about how to get to the event and what type of bags would be allowed in, reducing congestion and confusion.
That being said, there are some improvements to be made were Grandoozy to return in 2019. Mayers admits there are always “kinks” during the first year. Over the next few weeks, he says, the team will convene for a post-mortem and connect with city officials, neighbors, and other partners for additional feedback. “That’s the reality of our business,” he says. “You do a lot of planning, you do a lot of coordination with different officials, and then you do [the event] and everyone learns how to do things better.”
A major focus should be transportation. The ride-sharing system on Friday night was a disaster, with attendees pouring out onto Santa Fe Drive and walking into traffic to read license plates while trying to locate their Ubers or Lyfts. Event organizers made some necessary adjustments over the next two days, adding a second pick-up location near the north entrance and moving the south end’s pick-ups to the quieter intersection of South Platte River Drive and West Evans Avenue. Still: It was a major buzz-killer on night one.
Attendees also complained about light-rail closures and long wait times. (Grandoozy provided free shuttle buses from the I-25 and Broadway station to the festival grounds.) An RTD statement made on Twitter began, “Grandoozy organizers declines to enter into an agreement with RTD to pay for additional service for their festival attendees….”
Grandoozy organizers declined to enter into an agreement with RTD to pay for additional service for their festival attendees, and RTD doesn't have the resources to offer it otherwise. We'll have extra cars on the trains when possible, and staff on the ground at stations to assist
— RTD (@RideRTD) September 15, 2018
9News published a statement from Superfly spokeswoman Megan Adams, released Saturday night, that reads, in part, “RTD’s baseline offering includes being able to transport thousands of people per day efficiently, which is in line with Grandoozy’s attendance and adequately meets the festival’s needs, therefore Superfly accepted RTD’s standard service… RTD has added additional cars to the train lines to increase train capacities and help support Grandooy’s (sic) public transportation plans throughout the festival weekend.”
On the phone Monday morning, Mayers added, “There will be conversations with RTD coming out of this, all looking toward how we do things better.”
Another future consideration should be more main stages—adding one to bring the total to four would be great—which would mean more acts.
We’d also like to see Superfly do away with paper tickets. It is 2018, after all. At other music festivals we’ve attended, digital tickets were scanned at the entrance and attendees were given scannable wristbands to wear for the entire weekend. Grandoozy mandated paper tickets for general admission, which is not only environmentally unfriendly but also meant fans (many of whom may have overindulged on 21+ offerings) had to be extra careful not to lose, drop, or forget their tickets every day. Mayers had no comment on the ticket situation, saying it was an operation decision he “can’t speak to.”
Whether Grandoozy returns in 2019 is still up in the air. Mayers said the post-event conversations and evaluations all take place with an aim to bring the event back better than the year before. “We’re trying to create event properties that go on for a very, very long time,” he says. “That’s the goal.”