Festival Culture: Merging Entertainment with Experience

The notion of people coming together in 2019 to commemorate the iconic music festival, Woodstock, might seem a little dated for younger generations. However, I was invited to, and attended, such an event just last weekend.

Mother’s Brewing Company, in Springfield, MO, hosted its own “50th Anniversary Woodstock Aquarian Exposition,” which celebrated this milestone of American cultural history. The event featured local musicians playing various songs that were performed by the roster of bands at the original event, and ended with a public viewing of the 1970 documentary film Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh.

While I cannot personally account for how different this local festival was from the original (minus the public nudity and illegal substances) I am able to say with confidence that no one was staring blankly into their phone, instead of dancing or watching the bands, during the 1969 concert. This brings us to the question of how festival culture is evolving along with changes in entertainment trends.  So, put on your favorite fan gear, be it tie-dye or cosplay, and let’s join the festivities.

There is a festival for everyone and everything now, ranging from celebrating dogs, or the oddly-specific love of hard seltzer beverages, to esports and live gaming events. This is, of course, in addition to the countless music, food, and culturally-themed events that bring like-minded people together for fun and celebration. Festival themes are constantly evolving to include the latest forms of entertainment; yet, what draws festival-goers is the opportunity to engage in a live sensory experience.

It goes without saying that the market for hard, or “spiked,” seltzer beverages is experiencing rapid growth. This is thanks, in part, to the consumer demand for lower-calorie options and unique flavor combinations that appeal to fans of fizzy canned drinks, ahem, LaCroix, looking at you… This adoration inspired the debut of the first festival for hard seltzer, aptly named “Fizz Fight” to be held in Denver, CO, September 14, 2019.  The inaugural Fizz Fight festival promises guests unlimited access to free samples of hard seltzers from more than 60 vendors, a food truck park, and local artist installations and performances.

Festivals are evolving to include many genres of entertainment rolled into one event to create mass appeal. The inaugural Metarama Gaming and Music Festival will combine esports with live gaming tournaments, drone racing, cosplay, live musical acts, VR experience, and vintage arcade games. This event is the first of its kind to offer a multi-tiered approach to live entertainment and gaming, for all ages, and one can bet that cellphones will be there, recording all the action as it happens.

Looking for the right occasion to bring Fido or Fifi with you to a festival? The Paséa Hotel & Spa recently partnered with Vanderpupmp Dogs, a Los Angeles-based dog rescue organization, for the inaugural Pupchella. The festival brought together dog-lovers and their pets for a brunch with a dog-friendly menu, a four-legged fashion show, and festival events for the dogs and owners.

The style and content of festivals is changing, but what remains constant is the draw of a common interest. This collective enthusiasm is what keeps the spirit of festivals like Woodstock alive. The faces and activities may be changing, but our desire to gather and engage in live entertainment in the form of festivals is an ancient one.

Today fans use smartphones where permitted to record memories as they happen, or as a distraction from their surroundings. This relationship with technology is fueling how we choose to experience festivals. From freedom-loving hippies dancing in a field, to gamers racing drones, people will continue to attend festivals for enjoyment and for the spectacle that is live entertainment.

We will be following the evolution of festival culture and you can follow along with us. See more about “festival culture” and more, in our Quarterly Report. If you’d like to see the Q2 Report, just link to our current newsletter.

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