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KAABOO festival’s fate at Petco Park is unclear, 10 days after ‘final decision’ was to be announced

Maren Morris performs on the Sunset Cliffs Stage at KAABOO Del Mar on Sept. 13, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The festival’s producers were set to disclose the September event’s status by June 15, but ‘haven’t fully decided yet’

The status of the 2020 KAABOO San Diego music, comedy and food festival remains unclear, 10 days after the festival’s producer had vowed to announce if this year’s Sept. 18-20 edition at Petco Park will take place or not.

The fate of the upscale festival, which between 2015 and 2019 was held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, was thrown into question after the coronavirus pandemic led to the mid-March shutdown of virtually all live events in California and across the nation.

In a May 13 Union-Tribune article, KAABOO honcho Jason Felts said: “We shall make a final decision on holding KAABOO San Diego no later than June 15th as further information becomes available. Should the event either be postponed or canceled, current pass holders will have the option for full refunds.”

But a post last week on KAABOO’s Facebook page indicated a decision was still pending. It read: “Please bear with us for an official announcement regarding KAABOO San Diego 2020. The world has been changing faster than we could have imagined in just the last week or two; with some cities choosing to open up and some still closed by order. As a result, we will need just a little more time to determine our position as it relates to this year’s installment of KAABOO. You will be hearing from us shortly...”

Felts is the CEO of Los Angeles-based Virgin Fest, which last year acquired KAABOO Del Mar from its founders. Last September, after KAABOO’s 2019 edition had concluded, Felts and the San Diego Padres announced a multiyear partnership to present the renamed KAABOO San Diego at Petco Park.

A Padres’ representative told the Union-Tribune on June 14 that a delayed announcement from Felts about the 2020 festival could come by the end of this week. But in a Wednesday email, the Padres’ representative said: “Unfortunately, we don’t have much of an update for you either at this point.”

On Thursday morning, in an email response to the Union-Tribune, Felts seemed to imply KAABOO could take place on a smaller scale. What that scale would be, and how it could adhere adhere to social distancing guidelines, is unclear.

“In short,” Felts said, “we haven’t fully decided yet the fate of the 2020 large-scale festival. But if we do end up not having anything at all in 2020, we will of course offer refunds or incentives for 2021.”

An elaboration came in a Thursday afternoon email from a colleague of Felts, who wrote: “As conditions and guidance around COVID-19 continue to change from day to day, we are not yet ready to make any final decisions regarding KAABOO San Diego 2020. We will be revisiting and reviewing the week after the July 4th weekend. As always, the well being of KAABOO’s fans, attendees, staff, performers and the San Diego community will drive our decision-making.”

No lineup of performers has been announced yet for the 2020 edition of KAABOO. No tickets have been available for purchase since an early-bird sale ended in January.

Even so, Felts’ desire to try to buck the odds with a possible festival in September is understandable. The sold-out 2018 and 2019 editions of the festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, both held over three-day weekends, drew capacity crowds of 35,000-plus per day. Prices for three-day passes last year ranged from $299 to $20,000 per person.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds, netted $700,000 from the 2017 edition of KAABOO, according to a 2018 staff report. An economic impact report indicated KAABOO brought $15 million to Del Mar and Solana Beach in 2017, with a $37.5 million impact on San Diego County at large.

Should KAABOO take place in any form in September, it may well be the only major outdoor music festival in the nation to do so this year. Because of the once-again surging pandemic, festivals are prohibited from taking place in California — and across the nation — for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, the producers of the annual Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco announced this year’s edition — scheduled for Aug. 7-9 in Golden Gate Park — had been pushed back to August 2021.

On Thursday, the 2020 edition of the Eddie Vedder-led Ohana festival in Dana Point — scheduled for Sept. 25-27 — was postponed until fall 2021. Also on Thursday, the annual Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee — which had been rescheduled from June 14-17 to Sept. 24-27 — was postponed until next year.


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