Del Mar Fairgrounds officials call Kaaboo Festival a hit with merchants, despite noise complaints

Del Mar Fairgrounds officials gave high marks to the first-ever Kaaboo music festival which was held at the state-owned property in September, and said they are looking forward to the event’s return next year.

The comments came Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the board meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the agency that oversees the fairgrounds. Kaaboo’s director of community relations, Julie Coleman, was at the meeting to make a presentation to the board. Earlier in the day, she met with officials from Del Mar and Solana Beach.

“This was a home run,” said fairgrounds general manager Tim Fennell of the music, food and arts festival, which was held Sept. 18-20. “Everybody who came had a fabulous time.”

Kaaboo officials have declined to release attendance figures for the three-day festival, which included seven stages and more than 100 musical acts such as headliners No Doubt, the Zac Brown Band and the Killers.

“We’re a private company. We try to keep things close to the vest,” Coleman said.

Apparently, the festival’s organizers did not even share attendance figures with 22nd DAA officials, which prompted board member Stephen Shewmaker to request the information on a confidential basis.

Fennell said he estimated the event drew 50,000 to 60,000 people over the three days, which he expects to increase by at least 20 percent next year, “just from word of mouth, it was that good of an event.”

Both Coleman and fairgrounds officials reported no major traffic, parking or security issues. The biggest complaint, said Coleman, was regarding noise, especially on Sunday, when the heat and humidity were high and caused the sound to carry further. Many complaints came from as far away as Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights, she said.

“We’re working with the team to reduce those noise impacts for future years,” she said.

All outdoor music and amplified sound ended promptly at 10 p.m., and that will continue next year. In addition, the festival’s organizers will increase sound monitoring equipment, analyze stage locations and install more sound “blocking and diffusing elements,” in order to decrease the number of noise complaints, Coleman said.

Next year’s festival is planned for Sept. 16-18, and organizers, although pleased with the first-year attendance, expect more people to turn out in 2016, Coleman said. She added that they will be prepared to deal with the traffic and security issues that come with larger crowds.

While some nearby residents may not have liked the sounds emanating from the fairgrounds, the event was a big hit with local businesses.

Representatives of two Del Mar hotels told the 22nd DAA board Tuesday that the event boosted revenues during what is normally a slow month, and they want the event to come back.

“We’re excited about the future, we’re excited about next year. We see nothing but upside for the community,” said Bob Harter, director of sales and marketing for L’Auberge Del Mar.

According to Coleman, the average age of attendees was 38, and average household income was above $100,000. The composition of the audience was 43 percent male and 57 percent female, according to her presentation.

The event generated an estimated $218,000 in sales tax on merchandise, food, beverages and vending, while local hotels were sold out for the weekend, generating transient occupancy tax of more than $65,000, Coleman reported.

A report on the 22nd DAA board agenda said Kaaboo received favorable reports from the Sheriff’s Department and there were no security or traffic issues.

Among the festival’s attractions were a Sunset Cliffs stage, which included a beach, boardwalk, volleyball court, swimming pool, cabanas, beach chairs and “elegant, air-conditioned portable restrooms,” said the report. The festival also included an art show, premier wine tasting, gourmet food and vendors.

Fennell said the 22nd DAA will net between $800,000 and $900,000 from the event, including rent, parking fees and other sources of revenue.

Among the issues raised by board members was that people who called to complain during the event were only able to leave a voice-mail message. While Coleman said festival staff returned all calls by the next day, director Russ Penniman said it would be better to have the calls answered by live staff.

“Somebody needs to actually be there. People get frustrated when they hear the machine,” Penniman said.