Wakarusa tries out festival waters
By SAM SESSA The Kansas City Star
At first the Wakarusa festival seemed better suited for 2005.
When the talk of holding a jam-band festival of this size in Kansas circulated last summer, promoters didn't know if it would be possible to organize in a year. After all, it had never been done before.
Dominoes started falling in November when the economy was on the upswing, and by late January about 25 bands had signed on to the roster ? the green light for Wakarusa 2004.
The festival's sheer mass is staggering. It encompasses four days, three stages, 75 bands and almost 100 sets of music on a stage flanked by two JumboTron display screens. Nonmusical activities at the Clinton Lake camping site include hiking, mountain bike trails, Frisbee golf, canoeing, boating, swimming and fishing. A shuttle service will ferry people to and from Lawrence.
Brett Mosiman, one of the four festival directors, estimates a turnout of 10,000 to 15,000 people ? far past early expectations.
?When we launched this thing in March, it just hit a nerve,? Mosiman said. ?It's really amazing the feedback we've got from message boards and Internet chat rooms and e-mail. It's really amazing the outpouring of support for what we've undertaken.?
But why Kansas?
The festival circuit's crowd is used to touring in support of its bands and will cross the country for an extended weekend outdoors. Besides, there's no nearby competition.
?We could draw an eight-hour radius on a map and not come across any significant camping festivals,? Mosiman said.
Wakarusa also boasts no corporate ties that would raise ticket prices and charge fees for parking and beer. Parking is free, and those of age will be able to score draft beers for less than $4.
This year, no top-tier touring jam bands such as Phish, the Dead or the String Cheese Incident were booked because promoters are still testing the waters and didn't want to get overwhelmed, Mosiman said. If there is a second Wakarusa, there may be a major headliner.
?We'll have to see,? Mosiman said. ?We'll be talking to fans and stuff, checking out the numbers, and it's definitely a possibility that we'll do that.?
The campgrounds can hold the large volume of people that would accompany a massive headliner, and, provided this year goes well, there probably will be a Wakarusa 2005, Mosiman said.
?We do anticipate that it's an annual thing,? he said. ?We'll be back.?