Festival preview: NumberFest's 13th Edition will showcase Prime Social Group's plans to rival nation's largest music festivals
It began as a simple party and it's now the nation's largest college music festival. The transition of Athen's NumberFest over the years has been mind-blowing. 2004's inaugural attempt - an event with fewer than 2,000 people - has now turned into the franchise's 13th edition, and it's bigger than ever.
Just less than 19,000 people flooded the notoriously enormous field right off Union St. outside of Ohio University's campus last year. That number is expected to top 22,500 this weekend.
"The difference between 13Fest and all previous editions is the actual festival experience," explained Dominic Petrozzi, founder and owner of #Fest. "We have to change with the times … The organic feel is still there but [our growth] is for the greater good of the event."
In early 2012, the #Fest franchise partnered with Columbus-based event company Prime Social Group and since then, the two forces have reached for the stars.
"The dream was to take this festival and turn it into Bonnaroo of southeastern Ohio, but we couldn't do that overnight," said Adam Lynn, co-owner of PSG. "So every year we've added progressively until where we're at this year."
Prime Social Group is headquartered downtown and every employee is in some way based out of Columbus. Mike Gallicchio, head of the city's Food Truck Festival, will be working in coordination with Peerless Management Group (owners of Sway Nightclub, BBR and Garage Bar) to provide food and drinks for the festival. AnimalxHouse, another Columbus imprint, will run the second stage.
"We grew up here, we call this home, so though the festival is in Athens, we still consider Athens the submarket of the Columbus market," Petrozzi said. This year's edition will feature four on-site bars, a wide arrange of food trucks, a second stage and new VIP amenities, all previously absent from years past. The lineup has also expanded. Diplo will headline 2015's bill, which includes ScHoolboy Q, G-Eazy, Borgeous, ILoveMakonnen and Branchez, among others.
The expansion of #Fest has created a few limitations on some of the past's more organic elements. BYOB is still permitted, but it's more limited, and fest-goers have to pay a fee to be able bring in their own brews.
"Safety is our number one issue," said Zach Ruben, the other owner of PSG. "For us to be able to continue this event in that market with a variation of how it's been running we had to run up prices to address the added security of the fest."
Since purchasing the land Prime Social plans to have more events, including the continued expansion of the #Fest franchise and also new events like the recently announced Country Nightlife - a one-day music festival headlined by Sam Hunt.
"After you've been doing something for 10 years, it's time to evolve," Petrozzi explained. "In adding more interactives on site and providing more entertainment it shifts more into a music festival instead of in years past when people just considered it a college party. It is our goal in the future to create an environment that rivals some of the biggest music festivals in the country."
Sammis Richdale photo
12 p.m. Saturday, April 18
Union Street Market, Athens