The number “13” carries a spooky superstition. But in the case of new partner SweetWater 420 Fest in Atlanta, 13 is a good omen, and a cause for a righteous celebration.
The three-day music experience, which doubles as an Earth Day festival (hence the 4/20), will hold its 13th annual event from April 21-23, 2017 at Centennial Olympic Park in the heart of downtown Atlanta. In honor of “Lucky 13,” organizers are pulling all the stops.
Among its many highlights are two nights of double sets from headliner Widespread Panic—that means four sets over two nights from the legendary jam band—and a double headlining set from the Trey Anastasio Band. Other acts include Slightly Stoopid, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Dark Star Orchestra, with more than 45 additional bands to be announced in January. SweetWater 420 Fest will also feature a comedy tent, a nonprofit village, a craft beer experience from its presenting sponsor, SweetWater Brewing Company, and more.
Started in 2004 as a small celebration in conjunction with SweetWater Brewing Company’s flagship beer, 420, the inaugural event drew 400 just attendees. More than a decade later, the fest has evolved into a massive weekend destination. 2016’s festival saw as many as 75,000 attendees over the three-day weekend, according to Laurie Mallis, the festival’s marketing manager.
Many of those attendees are repeat patrons: According to a recent survey, 50-percent of the festival’s patrons have attended more than one SweetWater 420 Fest. “I think that says a lot to the reputation of the festival,” Mallis says.
Mallis attributes the festival’s success not only to its stellar lineups, but to the growth of SweetWater Brewing Company’s brand and the festival’s core values.
“When you look at the lineups through the years, it’s really diverse. We like to bring in everything from jam bands to alternative to EDM. I think that appeals to everyone,” Mallis says. “People like the fact that we’re tied in with sustainability, too. We do volunteer projects, then at the festival we have Planet 420 Eco-Village, which is tied to Earth Day. People like being a part of that.”
The festival has spearheaded various cleanup initiatives, diverted trash from landfills, and raised money for charities. Over the years, the efforts have translated to 100,000 pounds of waste being diverted from landfills for recycling, creating 55,000 pounds of compost, and donating $76,000 to local organizations.
With the festival in such high demand, organizers revealed headliners and launched ticket sales much earlier than in previous years. “We saw from last year that patrons are coming from all over the U.S., so we really wanted to give folks more time to plan their trips this go-round,” Mallis says.
That’s not the only thing different this year.
Gates are opening earlier on Friday, April 21, so that attendees can enjoy a full day of music. As mentioned, the two biggest headliners are also doing multiple sets—a first for SweetWater and a rarity among festivals.
“Widespread Panic is limiting their touring to festivals next year and we really like the idea of having them play for multiple nights,” Mallis says. “That also aligns with making it more of a destination. We want people there all three days. And we think this lineup will definitely help with that.”
Ticketfly and Pandora are helping, too. Won over by our superior customer service—“the number one reason [we partnered with Ticketfly] was honestly the customer service, not only to us as festival organizers but, more importantly, for our patrons,” Mallis says—SweetWater was equally impressed with our partnership with the Internet radio giant.
“We were happy to see that Pandora tie-in and see that come to life on our launch. We could see the impact right away. We were very pleased with our ticket sales on launch,” Mallis says. “We’re still going strong.”