KAABOO Del Mar festival celebrates fifth year with growth and contraction

The three-day festival will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a lineup that includes Mumford & Sons, Snoop Dogg, Kings of Leon and Maren Morris


The producers of KAABOO Del Mar are understandably proud to be celebrating this weekend’s fifth anniversary of their upscale, amenities-packed festival of music, comedy, gourmet food and drinks.

They are also proud that last year’s edition was the first in the event’s history to sell-out all three days in advance, although — as has been KAABOO’s policy since its inception — no specific attendance figures were released.

While this year’s festival has not yet sold out, all single-day Saturday tickets have been bought. So have all of the several dozen Ultimate Hang passes, which is KAABOO’s most exclusive three-day VIP package and cost $20,000 each. The festival’s Hang Five and Hang Ten passes, priced at $959 and $3,999, sold out on Wednesday. As of this writing, only general admission Hang Loose passes are available. (Ticket information appears below.)

“As KAABOO’s Chief Marketing and Brand Officer, my goal — and I believe we’ve achieved it — was to go from people asking ‘What is KAABOO?’ to ‘When is KAABOO?’ That is a big accomplishment,” said Jason Felts.

He is also the founder and CEO of Virgin Produced, which in 2016 became the festival’s Official Content Partner. KAABOO was launched here in 2015 by Bryan E. Gordon, the chairman of The Madison Companies, LLC, a Denver-based private investment holding company that he co-founded in 1996.

The five-year anniversary of KAABOO Del Mar is doubly notable in an increasingly competitive market that has seen new and established festivals alike be canceled or implode before they even took place. The list of casualties so far this year includes Northern California’s Treasure Island Music Festival, Boston’s Mad Decent Block Festival and the 50th anniversary edition of Woodstock in upstate New York.

But KAABOO’s success in Del Mar made the festival’s producers eager to expand. This year, they debuted two new festivals.

The first, in March, was KAABOO Cayman.

It drew a capacity crowd of 10,000 to its debut two-day edition on the island of Grand Cayman. The lineup included Duran Duran, Maren Morris and Bryan Adams. All three are in this weekend’s KAABOO Del Mar lineup.

The second, held over three days in May, was KAABOO Texas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

It was co-produced by the Jerry Jones family, which owns the stadium and the Dallas Cowboys football team. The lineup included Sting, Lauryn Hill and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Attendance was low enough that Felts can’t say if there will be a second KAABOO Texas.

“I have no idea. It is still very much up in the air, and it looks like this (year’s festival) may have been a one-off,” he said.

Felts, who was brought in as a last-minute consultant for this summer’s Woodstock 50 festival, spoke much more enthusiastically about KAABOO Cayman.

Its 2020 edition was announced soon after this year’s festival concluded and tickets swiftly went on sale. Just under 8 percent of this year’s attendees were from San Diego, Felts noted, even though there are no direct flights.

“Unlike in Texas, with a small market like Cayman it was very easy to educate people on what the KAABOO experience is and how it would go down,” he said.

“It was also very easy, because Cayman is 22 miles long and 9 miles wide, and it sold out very fast. So what I’ve learned is that KAABOO works best as a weekend escape delivered in a tourism market, whether that be San Diego or Cayman.

In an interview last Thursday, Felts spoke with palpable excitement about next year’s KAABOO Cayman. On Friday, it was disclosed the second Cayman festival has been canceled. No reasons were given.

On Monday, after several attempts by the Union-Tribune to do a follow-up interview, Felts issued a brief statement through a festival representative: “In regards to KAABOO Cayman, it will not be returning for 2020 as just reported. Accordingly, KAABOO will be returning its expansion plans to our U.S.-based events, including a focus on this coming weekend’s KAABOO in Del Mar.”

Asked in his Thursday Union-Tribune interview if any new KAABOO locations will be announced this year, Felts replied: “We are in active discussion on several opportunities in what I would deem metro tourism destinations.”

That makes KAABOO Del Mar the brand’s flagship (and, at least for now, only) event. And, Felts pointed out with pride, the festival here is hitting all the marks for its five-year business plan.

“KAABOO Del Mar has (done that), over-archingly, and — in some regards — we’re exceeding (projections),” he said. “We’re growing year over year, but not in a way that impacts guest enjoyment. It’s our fifth birthday, and we’re excited to celebrate it with everybody.

“The multi-sensory KAABOO experience is unique, with music, comedy, visual art and gourmet food and drinks. Over-archingly, guests at KAABOO — irrespective of which one they attended — have expressed how much they enjoy our customer service and the fact that the festival is clean, dust-free and has infrastructure.

“KAABOO was created and designed by our founder, Bryan E. Gordon, to deliver a level of service and an environment reflective of where he was in life, as a music-loving adult with discretionary income who wants festivals to be like vacations.”


When: 2 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar

Tickets: $139 daily general admission; $250 for two-day Friday and Sunday general admission passes; $359 for three-day general admission pass. Military and student discounts are available. Three-day VIP Hang Five and Hang Ten packages, which are priced from $959 to $3,999, are sold-out. Three-day $20,000 Ultimate Hang passes are also sold out.

Phone: (855) 798-5995