Changes in Store for Kaaboo

Kaaboo Del Mar organizers announce changes for next year's festival

The times they are a-changin’. While that phrase applies to the world in general on a daily basis, it also pertains microcosmically to the San Diego megafest Kaaboo Del Mar.

For the past two years that the multi-day music/art/food festival has been in existence, event organizers have made tweaks and added amenities in an effort to create the "ultimate weekend escape." (Heck, they had me at flushing toilets, to be honest.) But for their 2017 installment, already scheduled to take over the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Thouroughbred Club on Sept. 15-17, plans have evolved, thanks in no small part to patron feedback, safety issues brought to light by last year’s fest and a desire to increase guests’ comfort and enjoyment.

In a recent press release, Kaaboo organizers took aim at improving several aspects for 2017: Venue location, traffic, security, safety, parking, restrooms, cleanliness and the number of bars.

According to an report in September, concertgoers at one point tried to force their way into a stage area that was already at capacity (hip-hop star Ludacris and DJ Steve Aoki were slated to perform). The scene turned unruly and some concertgoers reported that sheriff’s deputies used pepper spray and tasers to disperse the crowd. Kaaboo organizers took the incident seriously, hiring a new director of security with large venue experience -- including stints at two NFL stadiums -- as well as relocating some of the stages to improve accessibility and safety.

Anyone familiar with the San Diego County Fair can also attest to the nasty gridlock traffic that plagues the area on peak days, and the experience at Kaaboo was no different (according to another September article, patrons waited "anywhere from two to three hours to get out of the parking lot”).

In response, festival planners announced this week that they were looking at "several options to mitigate traffic jams and provide an organized and safe entrance/exit from the parking lots with a better defined flow and additional training for our parking attendants." Organizers also said they brought a leading consulting firm on board to help improve traffic flow around the venue, using "detailed modeling" to eliminate bottleneck. When it comes to traffic around Del Mar, any help is welcome.

Last but certainly not least: Restrooms. With Kaaboo Del Mar being the only big festival in recent memory to bring in actual flushing toilets, they've already got a leg up on the competition. Apparently they're not satisfied with resting on their laurels and plan on adding more restrooms, including a centralized restroom area -- and are increasing their janitorial staff to ensure that "they remain stocked, clean and comfortable." Huzzah!

The 2017 incarnation of the festival could be a vast improvement over its previous two -- and considering the size and scope of the venture already, that’s saying something. It remains to be seen if these changes will be instituted or if they’ll even prove to be helpful, but the fact that organizers are addressing these issues at all is promising, to say the least.

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow, plays in Diamond Lakes, and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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