Behind the B3: Putting Together A Music Festival (aka, What Was I Thinking??)

Putting a music festival together is a lot of work, a whole lot of work, more work than I could have ever imagined.  I know this because we just hosted the first ever family music festival in Oklahoma, Wiggle Out Loud, on September 1st of this year, and it was a lot of work.  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in several months, this is because I never realized how all consuming putting together a festival was going to be. Did I mention it was a lot of work?  Okay, just making sure I got that point across.

So why do it? I asked myself that question numerous times over the past year or so, but the plain and simple answer is the time was right, Oklahoma was ready.  For several years we have played at the amazing Jiggle Jam Family Festival in Kansas City, Mo on Memorial Day weekend and have always been so impressed by what a fantastic event it is. It was always in the back of our minds that it would be so great to try putting together something similar in OKC, an idea that was reinforced and encouraged by our good friend Dana Morrow, Director of Outreach for our local Metropolitan Library System (she’s also one of our biggest inspirations and cheerleaders). The market for family music in this area has grown exponentially since our foray into the genre in 2007 to the point that there are now at least three family acts in the OKC metro area.  The time was right.

Okay, that’s great, we thought it would be cool to “one day” do a festival.  For several years that was about the extent of it, until we met our good friend Rob Crissinger.  Rob is a PR man extraordinaire (and all around great guy) for Bumbershoot PR, an awesome community-minded public relations firm here in OKC we work with on the local level.  When we first met I mentioned something to him in passing about doing an OKC family music fest and Rob immediately started connecting the dots with suggestions of amazing people who would love to be involved………and thus the ball started rolling.

This brings us to the folks that helped make it all happen.  It’s just not possible to put together an event like this by yourself, so finding people who know way more about their festival positions than you ever could is paramount.  For instance, you get someone from the art museum and local symphony to chair the art/music activities committee, you get someone from the city’s public school system physical education department to chair the exercise/movement activities committee, and so on and so on.  We were so fortunate to have well respected and accomplished members of high profile community organizations and local businesses involved with the planning.  They all genuinely wanted to see the festival succeed for the good of the community and the event truly benefited from their expertise. In my mind they were, without question, the key to Wiggle Out Loud’s success.

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So if we had all these amazing people on board what was so hard about it?  Well it wasn’t that each thing needing to be done was so difficult on its own, it was that there were just SO MANY decisions to be made and tasks to complete, and they all required careful consideration.  Things that I had never had to do before like renting port-a-potties, booking a sound and stage company, figuring out how many tents/tables we would need, thinking through our parking situation, working on a festival grounds layout, raising money…..oh yeah, that one was kind of important.  I quickly learned that it can be a challenge to attract sponsors for a first year event, especially in the wake of consecutive natural disasters like the tornadoes that hit central Oklahoma around the end of May this year.  Also, please keep in mind that I had, up until this point, only experienced festivals as an attendee and/or performer, never as an organizer, so this side of things was all brand new to me.  It’s an understatement to say I felt overwhelmed on numerous occasions and wished I could just walk away from it all.  People would laugh and think I was just trying to be funny when I would tell them about being curled up in a ball on the floor of my office with my eyes closed while my wife was asking if I was okay and me telling her I just wanted to stay where I was and keep my eyes closed…….yeah, that really happened.  But it was her support and several pep talks from good friends (Rob Crissinger and Tracey Zeeck specifically) that helped me get through times like these to continue moving toward our end goal.

So after all has been said and done (or on it’s way to being done, still in the process of following up on our budget and sponsor packet deliveries) the festival was an enormous success, especially for a first year event.  We had hoped for 2500 attendees and by all estimates we doubled that and then some.  The mayor of OKC was even there and introduced our set!  All the bands were amazing, the activities were a hit, the food trucks/vendors (all providing healthier food options) were delicious, all in all a grand time was had by everyone in attendance.  It was a very trying experience for me at times but I learned so much in a short amount of time and I feel like I’m truly a better person for it.

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 Would I do it again?  Well, planning has already started for next year, so I guess the answer is yes. My question for you is….who’s in for Wiggle Out Loud 2014??

That’s all for now, see you again soon from Behind the B3…….

The awesome Wiggle Out Loud follow up/promo video at the top was put together by the amazing Nathan Poppe