Fans Flock to Oro Valley Music Festival

By Kate Mathis –

Fans Flock to Oro Valley Music Festival

By Sept. 13, the 2015 monsoon should have been over, yet the rain was falling in heavy drops as music fans arrived at The Golf Club at Vistoso for the first Oro Valley Music Festival.

An estimated 5,500 people attended the event that grew from an idea in November of 2014 to develop a goodwill project for the community from the new owners of the golf course. GM Rich Elias wanted to create an event that would bring the Town of Oro Valley, and specifically the Vistoso community together, and to gain some positive publicity for the golf course which was under new ownership. He envisioned a small charitable event that involved the whole family.

Elias met with the charity Shine On Tucson, a local nonprofit that provides comfort to families of children being cared for at Diamond’s Children’s Medical Center and found there was a need for musical instruments for its music therapy program.

From there the idea of having a music festival was born. The initial plan was to bring in local bands, have a barbeque on the fairway and expect a few hundred people to attend.

Then in February, Elias pitched the idea to a representative from iHeartRadio. A month later, iHeartRadio representatives visited the golf course, and with the spectacular views of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the background, the prospect was sold.

With iHeartRadio on board, the stakes were raised and the lineup for artists included well-known performers such as American Authors and Matt Nathanson. In May when Rachel Platten was signed on, there was no way to know that her “Fight Song” would be the breakout hit of the summer. Radio advertisements increased the expected turnout, and the initial barbeque idea was history.

The storm rolled in as the first band, Parachute, began playing. Elias was on the phone with the National Weather Service and the fire department was on alert. Safety was the main concern, and as the storm neared, the crowd was pushed back from the stage and there was a brief halt to the music.

Sponsors handed out ponchos to the patrons as the rain fell. The shower cooled down the spectators and families enjoyed the wide, grassy space to toss footballs and lined up at food and beverage trucks. Spirits were not dampened. The crowd was energized. By the time Platton sang “Fight Song” it was clear that this event exceeded all expectations. The mayor of Oro Valley, Satish Hiremath was there and beaming.

Ryan Lameyer is CEO of Phenomenon Concerts, which produced the festival. He said, “We created a venue from a piece of grass. They were not opening an arena and stocking the refreshment stand – they were building a venue on a piece of grass.”

Elias said the success of the event was a team effort. “The town was fantastic and it couldn’t have been done without the help of the major supporters.” Plus the drive of Elias himself who regularly put in an extra 30 hours a week to pull this event together over many months.

From the feedback he received, the first Oro Valley Music Festival was “very successful,” Elias said. His goal was to do well by the community and the charity. The modest expectations were far exceeded.

Fueled by the high praise received – with some minor criticism that he intends to address – Elias is already pedal-to-the-metal for the second annual music festival.

He promises 2016 will include a bigger stage, more food trucks and beverage stations, and a commitment to keeping this a fun family-oriented event.

“The footprint has been set,” Elias said. “Look for a bigger, better event next year.”

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