BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Two years ago, the SweetWater 420 Festival expanded with a move to Centennial Olympic Park and for its April 2015 incarnation, enlisted an eclectic musical offering that included Snoop Dogg, Primus and 311.
That commitment to musical diversity will continue for the 2016 version, which will take place April 22-24 again at downtown’s Centennial Olympic Park.
Kid Rock, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Bastille, Ludacris, The Disco Biscuits and Cypress Hill have been tapped as headliners for the event, which this year falls on Earth Day weekend.
“We’re going into our 12th year so we have a lot of returning patrons and SweetWater has a great following across the country,” said Jennifer Bensch, president of Happy Ending Productions, which produces the event.
Last year, about 75,000 people attended the gathering during its three-day run, injecting about $4.97 million into the local economy, according to festival research. The eventual goal is to attract up to 30,000 fans per day.
With the glut of festivals that now dot the Atlanta landscape throughout the year, it is becoming more difficult to offer patrons something unique. But Bensch sees the assortment of musical styles as SweetWater 420’s biggest strength.
“Our festival has a mix of everything – jam, indie, a little EDM, a little rock — while some of the others are pegged on one specific style of music. We try to represent all genres,” she said.
Close to 50 more acts will be announced early next year, including a couple of big names.
“We have a few surprises up our sleeve,” Bensch said, coyly.
The size of the festival will remain the same with four stages – a main stage that operates like a turntable and provides two stages on rotation, the Planet 420 stage and the Not-So Silent Disco stage.
The 2016 edition of SweetWater 420 will also include the 420 Lyrics and Laughter tent, which will feature local music and local comedians. As the festival grows, Bensch is dedicated to maintaining an element of local flavoring.
Of course, one of the main attractions at this particular festival is the product of its title – SweetWater beer. While the fest is an all-ages gathering, those 17 and younger must be accompanied by an adult 25 and older.
The other spotlight at SweetWater 420 Festival is its environmental component. Last year, members from Happy Ending Productions and the SweetWater 420 Fest participated in the “Earth Day Work Day” and installed a solar trash compactor that has diverted 42 pounds of waste from landfills to composting.
“The environment has always been super-important to us,” Bensch said. “We’ll be doing another initiative similar (to last year’s). We want to do one every year.”
Tickets for SweetWater 420 Festival are currently on sale with Super Early Bird pricing of $75 for a three-day general admission pass. Those prices will eventually increase to $89 for Early Bird, $123 Advance and $138 Regular pricing.
The three-day Big Fish VIP pass is currently available with Early Bird pricing of $228, which will increase to $338 and $378, respectively. The VIP pass includes five complimentary drinks (beer or wine), access to food, air-conditioned bathrooms and a gaming area and a special viewing area of the main and Planet 420 stages.
To purchase tickets, visit www.sweetwater420fest.com.