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KAABOO San Diego festival at Petco Park postponed until 2021 because of coronavirus pandemic

Fans surround the Grandview Stage at the sold-out 2018 edition of KAABOO Del Mar.
Fans surround the Grandview Stage at the sold-out 2018 edition of KAABOO Del Mar.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The festival, which was slated for Sept. 19-20, would have been the first edition of KAABOO not held in Del Mar

It’s official, if not unexpected: The 2020 edition of KAABOO San Diego has been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The upscale music and food festival was scheduled to take place Sept. 18-20 at Petco Park as part of a new multiyear partnership between KAABOO’s Los Angeles-based producer, Virgin Fest, and the San Diego Padres. The first five editions of KAABOO were held at the Del Mar Racetrack and adjacent fairgrounds, where headliners included Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Jimmy Buffett, Katy Perry and Foo Fighters.

“After much consultation with stakeholders in local government, artists and music industry friends, and members of the San Diego community, we know it is best and safest for everyone to look ahead and plan a bigger and bolder edition of KAABOO for September of 2021,” the festival announced in a Monday statement.

“All current pass holders will receive an email in the next few days outlining a special offering for those of you who hold onto your passes for KAABOO 2021. All pass holders will have the option for a full refund.”

The decision to postpone the three-day event at Petco Park is no surprise. Nearly every major 2020 music festival — including Coachella in Indio, Lollapalooza in Chicago and the June debut edition of Virgin Fest in Los Angeles — has been postponed until at least next year because of the pandemic. Current social-distancing rules make live events of almost all sizes almost impossible.

Even so, KAABOO’s producers seemed reluctant to pull the plug on this year’s event. Their reluctance came even though they had never announced any performers for the festival’s 2020 edition at Petco Park — and despite the fact no tickets were available for purchase since an early-bird sale concluded in January.

Virgin Fest and KAABOO honcho Jason Felts had vowed in a May 13 Union-Tribune article to announce the fate of this year’s edition of KAABOO by June 15. In late June, he amended that statement to say no decision would be made until after the July 4 holiday.

In the interim, other festivals — including the Ohana Festival in Dana Point and Wonderfront in San Diego — announced they were being postponed until next year because of the pandemic.

Moreover, the July 6 announcement of the Padres’ revised and truncated, 60-game season — which began last Friday — indicated KAABOO would have kicked off just two days after the Padres’ Sept. 16 Petco Park game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Typically, it takes at least a week to set up a major outdoor festival with multiple stages.

Why did KAABOO wait so long to postpone?

“As promoters, you have to be optimistic. We were probably being overly optimistic,” KAABOO spokesman Steve Levy, Virgin Fest’s Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, told the Union-Tribune on Monday.

Felts was traveling and not available for comment.

“There were so many factors involved in the decision to postpone KAABOO,” Levy continued. “But we had the hope and dream we would forward with this year’s festival. We were optimists. But it was clear from the San Diego community that a lot of the community didn’t want to do it this year.”

The Padres, in response to a request for comment Monday from the Union-Tribune, issued the following statement: “While 2020 has been a challenging year for concerts and festivals, we look forward to welcoming fans of live music back to Petco Park when it is safe to do so. We defer to KAABOO for all ticket-refund requests and look forward to working with them on future festivals.”

As originally envisioned, this year’s festival at Petco Park would have featured performances on multiple stages inside and adjacent to the stadium. Once it became clear a large-scale event would not be possible, KAABOO’s producers considered several smaller options.

“We were looking at various versions of where concerts and festivals were going, like the tailgate/drive-in idea,” Levy said. “We were working with some talent on that, but then we realized we couldn’t really do it (that way) and keep the (full) KAABOO brand and experience.”

Assuming the pandemic is well under control a year from now and a fair degree of normalcy has returned, the 2021 edition of KAABOO will take place at Petco Park in 13 months.

“We are still working with Petco Park on the dates. We have a date that fits,” Levy said, adding: “It will definitely be in September. The Padres also have a lot of challenges with stuff moving around for them, a small thing called Major League Baseball.”

While no performers had been announced for the 2020 edition of KAABOO, Levy maintains the festival was nearly ready to go, talent-wise.

“We had a pretty set lineup in mind,” he said. “Then COVID-19 happened.”

The delay in announcing the postponement of this year’s KAABOO has been understandably frustrating for patrons who bought early-bird three-day passes. They have been unable, until now, to obtain refunds.

While Levy is hopeful fans will opt to hold on to their passes to use at next year’s festival, he expects the refund process to be expedited.

“Typically, there’s a 30 day turn-around around for refunds,” Levy said. “We’re pushing to do it within 14 days, or less.”

Does the postponement of both KAABOO and the June 20 debut edition of Virgin Fest in Los Angeles represent a major financial setback?

“Not really,” Levy replied.

“Obviously, it affects our revenue, but it doesn’t affect our going forward. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference. We are very bullish on the festival business going forward, and we’re not the only ones. Live Nation is probably feeling the same way as us.”


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