‘This isn’t Coachella,’ Kaaboo festival organizers assure Del Mar residents

Kaaboo, a new three-day music festival, is set to take the stage in September at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but not everyone is excited.

With the event a little more than a month away, community members shared their traffic, noise and safety concerns during a meeting Aug. 3 in the Del Mar Communications Center.

Described on the event website as a “mix-perience,” the festival will feature more than 100 performances on seven stages from Sept. 18-20. The lineup includes a variety of genres, with acts such as No Doubt, The Killers, Zac Brown Band, Train, Snoop Dogg and Foster the People. The event will also offer comedy acts, an art fair, massages, hair and nail services, and food and beverages.

Kaaboo is expected to attract about 40,000 people per day. A VIP reception is also planned for about 2,000 people from 5-10 p.m. Sept. 17.

Event organizers insisted that the festival will not turn into a party, like the Coachella Festival.

“It’s real important to point out the quality of this event as opposed to say, Coachella, which I think you’re all concerned about,” said Becky Bartling, chief operating officer of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. “This isn’t Coachella. This is an upscale event.”

Organizers are “targeting an older, more sophisticated demographic,” added Julie Coleman, of Denver-based The Madison Companies, LLC, owner of HorsePower Entertainment, the company that is producing Kaaboo. The company has previously given presentations to the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board, which governs the state-owned fairgrounds, and to the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, the Del Mar City Council and the Solana Beach City Council.

“This is a place to relax and enjoy; this is not a kid’s party,” Coleman said. “This is something for all of you to come and have a great time.”

The festival is geared for people ages 25 to 55, Coleman explained. The average ticket buyer is 38 years old, paying $199 to $2,499 for a three-day pass. One- and two-day passes are also now available from $125 to $575.

“I don’t care if they’re paying $1,000, they still have big voices,” said Bud Emerson, who has lived in Del Mar for nearly 45 years. “I can hear everything now, and I’m all the way up on the hill.”

Although the expected daily attendance is comparable to Opening Day at the racetrack, Coleman maintained that the community would not experience comparable traffic on the roads.

“The race days, everybody comes at one time and they jam up the roads,” she said. “Our program is staggered throughout the day.”

Gates will open at 11 a.m., with the heaviest traffic expected in the mid-afternoon, she said.

Although outdoor events will end at 10 p.m., the latest events, such as indoor comedy shows and a “late-night dance party,” will end at 2:30 a.m. Organizers expect lighter crowds at those events.

“We created the late-night events to help lessen the traffic impact on the community,” said Coleman, adding that all late-night events will be located indoors. “Those events will keep the traffic flow staggered, as much as possible, to help ease the tension on those gates and on the streets.”

Still, Coleman said Kaaboo organizers “can’t control” when people leave.

“We can’t force them out the door or stop them from going out the door,” she said.

“But you can put the burden on us?” asked Del Mar resident Bill Michalsky.

“We’re not putting the burden on you,” Coleman responded. “We’re going to try and do our best to mitigate the traffic impact.”

A team including 10 traffic deputies and 60 traffic controllers will help alleviate congestion.

In addition, attendees must purchase on-site parking passes in advance. A maximum of 9,000 vehicles will be parked on the fairgrounds’ property, Coleman said. Spaces will not be resold, so there won’t be any turnover. Most vehicles will exit out Jimmy Durante Boulevard and up Via de la Valle to get back on Interstate 5.

Those without prepaid parking passes will have to use off-site lots. Offsite parking will be available at Del Mar Horse Park and potentially the Kilroy’s office complex, also on El Camino Real. Buses will be routed off I-5 and up Via de la Valle, not down Highway 101, Coleman said.

To further mitigate traffic, traffic and parking instructions will be mailed to attendees along with event wristbands. Signs directing traffic to off-site lots will also be posted on the freeway and roads.

Event organizers have partnered with public transit providers to offer bundled transit with admission. A free shuttle service will also be provided from the Solana Beach Transit Center. Buses from the train station will come down Highway 101 and go up Via de la Valle through the Solana Gate at the Fairgrounds, Coleman said.

In addition to buses, the Solana Gate will be open for the artists and VIP parking. The general public will use the Main Gate at the fairgrounds.

Organizers are also encouraging carpooling. Festivalgoers who arrive with three or more people in a vehicle will receive food tickets and late-night party discounts. A free bike valet will also be located near the event entrance.

In addition to parking and traffic, noise is another major community concern.

To help reduce sound, Coleman said organizers have worked with a national sound engineering expert to conduct testing and develop a plan to mitigate noise levels in the neighborhood. Outdoor stages will be directed away from the surrounding neighborhoods, while indoor stages will feature modified sound levels and temporary insulation to contain the sound within the spaces.

“We know we have to follow the sound ordinance, and we know it’s going to be very difficult,” Coleman said. “We know it’s a hard sound ordinance for us to follow, so we’re going to do everything we can … to put things in place to make sure we don’t violate it and make sure we act quickly if we have a problem.”

During the festival, community members can call the Fairgrounds with any concerns as 858-794-1104.

“Once I’m woken up at 3 a.m. by somebody behaving badly, if there’s presence there, people will be less likely to do it,” said Ed Yuskiewicz, a 20-year Del Mar resident. “But if there’s no presence and we have to wait for something to happen, sure you’ll come and you’ll do something about it, but what about the fact that I’m now up at 3 o’clock in the morning?”

In response, Coleman said that the safety and security of patrons, neighbors and employees is a top priority.

Kaaboo will have its own emergency services personnel and resources that will not be pulled from local communities. Organizers are also working with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department to make sure personnel are aware of and understand the plans they have in place.

A total of 70 deputies will be available during peak hours, approximately 3-11 p.m. on event days, said Pat Kerins, chief of security for the Del Mar Fairgrounds. They will patrol the perimeter of the fairgrounds and the streets, he said. There will also be dedicated patrol units in the cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach, but the Sheriff’s Department will determine how many, he said.

“Is it overkill? Probably some people think it’s overkill,” Kerins said. “But it’s a first-year event. We want to err on the side of safety.”

Still, some residents want more resources in the neighborhoods.

“I want you to have more presence in the (Beach) Colony,” Yuskiewicz said. “I’d like to see a plan. It would be great for the people who live in the beach community here.

“I want you to succeed at the event, but not at our cost,” he added. “If you get out in front of a lot of these issues, it bodes well for you in the future. If you don’t, then all of us are going to be very, very upset at the end of it all.”

City Manager Scott Huth reassured community members that it is the city’s intent to patrol up to 15th Street through the Beach Colony, along San Dieguito Drive and Jimmy Durante Boulevard during the festival and after the last event.

“We’re all in the same boat in that we’re trying to make sure that we don’t have impacts that bleed outside of the fairgrounds,” said City Manager Scott Huth. “We want the fairgrounds to be safe, and we want our communities to be safe, and we want you to get your sleep because I know how you get when you don’t get your sleep and you call me.”

Organizers would not disclose how many tickets have been sold, but Coleman said that the show will go on no matter what. In fact, they are already looking forward to next year.

Although organizers originally intended to offer onsite accommodations for overnight visitors at the fairgrounds, Coleman said attendees are now being referred to local hotels. Festivalgoers might be able to stay onsite in the future.

“We plan to be here next year,” Coleman said. “We know that we have a lot to live up to, that we have a lot to deliver, both to our guests as well as to the community and to the fairgrounds. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of promises we’ve made to try and be good neighbors, to provide an awesome experience for our guests, and to make it an experience where people want to come back.”

For more about Kaaboo, visit