The inaugural Great American Food & Music Festival, hosted by Food Network personality Bobby Flay on June 13 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA, was a huge success in terms of the crowds that it drew. But operationally and logistically, the one-day event was a nightmare.
The computer system went down as the doors opened and long lines developed. The wristband method of entry slowed lines down as attendants took each ticket, read it, grabbed the appropriate wristband and put it on the guest. The cashless system was aborted when the bars on food tickets were reading wrong prices and the switch to cash had to be made.
If those issues weren’t enough, the festival began to run out of food. In the end, a lot of irate and complaining ticket holders demanded and received refunds.
The Great American Food & Music Festival will have another shot to get it right, though. Because of the large crowds drawn to the one-day event, organizers have decided to stage a touring edition in 2010. On weekends from May through July, two touring units will hit cities across the nation.
Jim Lewi of The Agency Group’s Events & Entertainment division, who spearheaded the event in a joint production with Serious Eats, said in his industry e-newsletter that the crowds “came…and came…and came. That’s the good news. We sold a bunch of tickets. We just didn’t realize how many would sell in the last few days leading into the show…and the walk-up.”
Lewi only had praise for Live Nation, who promoted the event and operates Shoreline. “Never have I seen promoters put such effort into trying to fix problems not created by them,” he said. “Rick Mueller [president of Live Nation San Francisco] actually jumped up on a stand and starting yelling directions so guests could hear him. All were handing out meal tickets, answering questions, and unfortunately, sending those already unhappy to the box office for a refund. We gave 1,900 just on the day of show. I can’t thank the Shoreline and Live Nation staff enough for their hard work and efforts on our behalf. I’m sorry that it ever came to that.”
Looking ahead to next year’s tour, Lewi said, “We proved that there is an audience for this show, and promoters and sponsors are already calling. All we need to do is fix our logistical issues…which is just a numbers game.”