By Mary Minor Davis –
In just three years, the Oro Valley Music Festival has tripled audiences, attracts national award-winning country and pop artists, and proves to be a financial boon for the community.
“It’s turned into a pretty neat little festival and we appreciate the continued support from everyone in the community,” said Rob Elias, co-founder of the festival, along with his brother Richard.
That’s an understatement, according to Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath. “For the first time, we partnered with Visit Tucson to conduct an economic impact of the event and found the festival contributes just over $1 million to the economy in just two days,” he said.
“This music festival is what every city and town look for to put them on the map. Whoever thought that Oro Valley would be known nationally for a music festival?” Hiremath added it is events like this that led to Oro Valley being named the Best Small City in Arizona by WalletHub in 2017.
The festival also has contributed $45,000 in charitable contributions and fundraising opportunities for nonprofits at the event. The largest recipient, Shine on Tucson, provides musical comfort for kids dealing with illness or trauma at the Diamond Children’s Medical Center.
“One of the best parts of this event is the community support that comes from it,” Elias said.
The success of the festival and its growing attendance are indicative of the major demographic shift of the community, Hiremath said. “What was once going to be the largest retirement community in the region has now seen a large infusion of younger families,” he said. “Where we used to be 85 percent retirees, now we are 75 percent non-retired.”
Hiremath, who was one of only two mayors to receive the 2017 Americans for the Arts public leadership award, said his administration is dedicated to growing the arts and cultural scene in Oro Valley.
“Oro Valley is a place where memories are created. This is one of those events that can create those memories,” he said. “I’m foolish enough to believe that we can be all things to all people – and this event proves that. From children to people in their 80s – it truly is an event for everyone.”
Elias agreed. “I love seeing people of all ages enjoying the music, parents bringing their kids out for their first concert, making those memories together.”
Steve Earnhart, senior VP of sales for iHeart Radio, a partner with the festival since its inception, said audience growth has been “phenomenal” – increasing from 2016’s two-day attendance of 10,000 to 20,000 in 2017. The first year was a one-day event with attendance estimated at 3,000.
“Residents talk about the festival with pride, it’s a badge of honor,” he said. “It really puts people out for a weekend. Everyone from the residents to the people who work it say, if it puts Oro Valley nationally on the map, it’s worth it. They really own it.”
With these kinds of growth numbers, organizers are asking, what’s next? How can the event continue to grow?
“We do have a limited footprint,” Elias said about the festival’s current site at The Golf Club at Vistoso. “We are looking at other options as we pushed it pretty much to the limits on Sunday. We need to consider any impacts of expansion – we want to continue to be a good neighbor.”