Imagine throwing a party for 11,000 of your closest friends. In addition to the usual things like food and beverages, it also means parking, bathrooms, seating and entertainment, which in this scenario involves booking about a dozen musical groups from around the country.
Oh, and you have about eight weeks to put it together.
And literally hundreds of other people are planning similar events, with some being much bigger.
That's essentially the case the folks with Moon River Festival faced in putting together the 2021 version of Chattanooga's newest major music fest, set for Sept. 15-17 at Coolidge Park. Fortunately, it's not their first rodeo, as the saying goes. This will be Moon River's third year in Chattanooga (not counting last year's canceled event), and in fact, AC Entertainment, the production company pulling it off, does this all the time. They also help produce Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
But that is usually in June. This year it be the first week of September, meaning they will be producing two big-time events in three weeks.
Friends of the Festival, the people who produce Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival, are in a similar situation in that they plan to produce a three-day festival Oct. 8-10. It will be a much smaller event with three stages instead of five, but such events still require untold planning, organization and communication.
Typically, festival planners spend an entire year getting ready for the next event. In addition to obvious things like booking bands, such events require security, vendors, ticket takers, fencing, etc., and coordination with city and county officials.
Moon River co-founder Drew Holcomb says organizers started feeling good about planning the event after Bonnaroo announced its lineup in late March and sold all of its 80,000 tickets in just a few weeks.
"That really opened things up," he says.
He also says that it appears all of the festivals, artists and organizers "are playing well together because we all want to be successful." Radius clauses, which in typical years prevent an artist from playing within a certain radius (100-400 miles typically), for weeks prior to and following a festival, have been suspended, Holcomb notes.
That makes booking acts for festivals easier, but it also helps explain why we are seeing bands like Tame Impala, Lizzo and The Killers on several of the bigger lineups, such as Bonnaroo, Firefly, Lollapalooza and Coachella.
That's good news for the artists and the festivals, and from a fan's standpoint, it means we will have a plethora of festivals to choose from in the late summer and fall, which could be great news if you have the time and money.
What it means for venues looking to book individual bands is not yet clear. Will artists focus primarily on festivals, which can mean more money because of larger crowds, or will they try to do both?
And, it goes without saying that everything could change if COVID-19 rears its hideous head in great numbers again. What happens then to festivals like Bonnaroo and Moon River which are intending to be at full capacity?
"I don't know," Holcomb says. "I'll leave that to the experts."