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This year’s third annual FestForums took place at the legendary beachfront Fest Parker Resort in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA on November 15th through the 18th. The conference offered attendees networking and educational opportunities in the areas of music, film, food and beverage festivals over the course of three days. As a first time attendee of the conference, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of panels, topics discussed, vendor booths, performances, and opportunities to connect and make new contacts. 

There were many speakers and celebrities in attendance offering participants the chance to interface directly with some major industry players. The conference hosted two simultaneous conference rooms for panels as well as the Cinetransformer (state of the art movie theatre) in the hotel parking lot that hosted film presentations and a myriad of panels. Several incredible films were screened including Living in the Future’s Past starring Jeff Bridges, which included a very special Q&A with the actor himself. 


With the latest demos in festival technology and trends, the Exhibitor hall was the place to go for networking opportunities and the main hub for attendees to check out the latest products and services that event producers can use to enhance their events. The conference began with opening remarks from Elizabeth Mackay, a delegate for the Québec Government Office. Quebec’s government relies heavily on the festival industry and arts so the country is currently focusing its efforts on creating business-friendly practices. 

The first panel was called Purposeful Festivals and the Adapting Festival Culture hosted by Kevin Lyman, the founder of the Warped Tour who recently announced that 2018 would be the traveling festival’s closing year. The panel focused on an idea that eventually became the universal theme of the three-day conference, that any and all festivals should have a meaningful and purposeful theme and direction. Panel members included industry veteran Veronica Amador, David Beame of the Global Poverty Project which hosts large-scale charity events and works directly with the United Nations, and Zach Tetreault, the drummer and sax player of electronic art rock band Hundred Waters and Co-Founder of FORM Arcosanti festival.

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Additional panels focused on topics including music and meditation, working with agents and managers, ticketing and technology, and a host of other topics. Speakers included some major industry players such as Donnie Estopinal (Disco Donnie Presents), David Strunk (United Talent Agency), actress Frances Fisher, and Robert Richards (Commercial Director at Glastonbury). 

Each evening concluded with a cocktail party, which provided for substantial networking opportunities. On Friday night attendees were also given the opportunity to purchase and attend a celebrity chef dinner. Other perks included complimentary massages as well as a performance from former Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell. 

The conference concluded with performances from renowned performing artists Kenny Loggins and Judith Owens. On Saturday FestForums even offered attendees the chance to receive one-on-one peer mentorship from Kevin Lyman and Robert Richards. Founder Laurie Kirby was very happy overall with this year’s turnout saying that this had been the year with the most speakers, vendors, high-level festivals, events, parties and events of any FestForums yet. She also voiced her enthusiasm about the networking opportunities taking place at the conference stating that “the business transactions being done (were) at a very high level.” Altogether, I would definitely recommend FestForums to anyone looking to expand their knowledge and networking database in the festival world.


Be sure to catch the next FestForums conference focusing on the role of Marijuana in festival culture, which is sure to be a hot topic for conversation in 2018. Laurie had this to say about the Cannabis conference, “We want to prepare festivals and events with the information that will help them incorporate cannabis into their event.” It will be very exciting to see how the upcoming Cannabis Conference plays out. 

Head to FestForums website for more information. 

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