Mile High Prevails as a Festival with Altitude

28 Aug

Dave Matthews performs at this year's Mile High Music Festival

REPORTING FROM DENVER — In its third year, the Mile High Music Festival enjoyed tremendous success with close to 70,000 attendees during the two-day event held Aug. 14 and 15 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, just minutes from downtown Denver.

Rob Thomas, the festival’s general manager, said many things contributed to this year’s success, which is starting to build a reputation nationwide.

“We’ve worked really hard to establish and build a brand,” he said.

One of the biggest—and most noticeable—changes was that this year’s event was held mid-August instead of mid-July, as it was in its first two years. The later summer dates meant cooler temperatures and also allowed for more college students to attend.

“The last two years it’s been unbearably hot,” Thomas said. “We got really lucky with the weather this year.”

Like the majority of events these days, the Mile High festival has always had big-name sponsors, but this year they tried something a little different by forming partnerships with sponsors who in turn brought something on site for the fans to enjoy and experience.

Kyocera and Cricket featured an air-conditioned “Cooler” tent where festival-goers could escape the heat. The tent offered a free cell phone charging station, a make-your-own bandana press, free bottled water and snacks, Rock Band game stations, and laptop computers showing off Cricket’s wireless broadband device, which were also used to give away VIP ticket upgrades, smartphones, and T-shirts.

Steve Skarsgard, area marketing manager for Cricket Communications, said the Cooler tent was a huge success in helping inform the public about the launch of Kyocera’s new smart phone as well as offer reprieve from the heat for many attendees.

“I think it’s been a godsend for a lot of people that are baking out there,” he said, “and people really are relating to some of the activities and some of the goodies and the giveaways that we have for them because it is adding to their experience.”

Toyota was also on site, offering two different areas with activities for music fans to enjoy in between sets. The Prius Playground, which was a partnership effort between Toyota and non-profit organization Global Inheritance, allowed fans to earn their own snow cones by riding stationary bikes and seesaws that powered the snow cone machine. Toyota also had a Corolla photo booth and live radio broadcast from another area at the festival.

In terms of concessions, festival organizers wanted to showcase as much local eatery fare as possible with two-thirds of concessionaires being from Denver or surrounding areas.

While traditional festival goodies such as pizza, burgers, hot dogs, bratwursts and funnel cakes were available, several gourmet options were also available like Thai BBQ, Vietnamese noodles, world vegetarian cuisine and Berrie Kabobs—a sweet treat consisting of white and milk-chocolate covered strawberries and bananas served on a stick.

VIP ticket-holders enjoyed a number of benefits, including parking close to the entrance and discounted beer and food, but they also had better access to the main stage.

“One of the best benefits is that viewing area in front of the main stage,” Thomas said of the VIP tickets. “We really reinvented the wheel with that.”

In addition to all the changes made by event organizers to enhance the fan experience at this year’s festival, the lineup was very strong and helped draw crowds from all over the country. Featuring legendary mainstream performers Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band as the headliners, dozens of popular and up-and-coming musicians also played the event, including Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Cypress Hill, Rusted Root, Phoenix, Keane, Bassnectar, Z-Trip, The Epilogues, The Samples and My Morning Jacket, as well as old-timers Jimmy Cliff and the Steve Miller Band.

Thomas also commented that the fans really enjoyed musicians bringing special guests on stage during their sets, such as Donovan Frankenreiter playing some songs with John Oates of Hall and Oates, John Popper of Blues Traveler sitting in on The Samples’ set, and Danny Barnes and Tim Reynolds playing along with the Dave Matthews Band.

“We’re always trying to improve and make it better each year,” he said. “We have changed our lineup and our layout every single year. I personally try to go to as many U.S. and international festivals as I can every year to get ideas.” — Lindsay Sandham

Interviewed for this article: Steve Skarsgard, (720) 374-8064; Rob Thomas, (720) 931-8705

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