The FestX Awards, the United States only festival award show, was hosted on December 11th at the XLIVE Annual Conference & Expo at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The evening brought together visionaries and innovators in the festival space to celebrate the groundbreakers and tastemakers of the industry. Winners from thirteen different categories were selected by a combination of public vote and judging committee. The night was an opportunity to award and recognize those who go above and beyond to innovate and push boundaries in the festival space, and the nominees represent events that have elevated the industry to new heights.
Last year, XLIVE and Everfest teamed up for the first time to host the FestX awards. This was the second annual ceremony that celebrates the achievements of festivals worldwide.
The winners from 2017 were as follows:
- Oktoberfest for the Best Beer/Wine Festival
- Electric Forest for the Best Production Design
- New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for the Best Family-Friendly Festival
- BlizzCon for the Best Esports Festival
- Lost Lake Festival for the Best New Festival
- Electric Forest for the Best Fan Community
- Coachella + Obscura Digital, “Antarctic Dome” for the Best Use of Technology
- AFROPUNK for Outstanding Social Impact
- Vive Latino for the Fan Choice Award
- Taste of Chicago for the Best Food Festival
- Panorama + HP, “HP Lab” for the Best Brand + Festival Pairing
- DGTL for the the Outstanding Green Event.
The host for the evening was Kate Levenstien, Founder of Cannonball Productions. She has an appetite for bold flavors and entrepreneurship. The company she founded in 2013 leads the Bacon and Beer Festival, an event that travels to 12 stadiums throughout the country, and it also hosts Taco Takeover, a collaboration with the Thrillist, in seven cities. She works to create big, one of a kind experience that draw thousands of attendees from all over the country. The night focused not only on highlighting those events which stood out this past year but also served as a chance to energize everyone for next year.
The winners of the awards were selected by both a judging panel and public vote. A diverse group of individuals were chosen to help read through the nominees and vote for who they felt stood out amongst the others. They had no easy task as the festivals selected for each category were all exemplary in their own right. Chosen for their unique role in the festival industry, this year there were seventeen judges who made up the panel.
The 2018 FestX Awards Judges were as follows:
- Ginger Wesson, Festival Photographer
- Chip Conley, Burning Man Board Member
- Jake Ryan, Festival Influencer
- Neal Helt, Taste of Chicago
- Adrian Spinelli, Paste / Rocket Radio
- The Festive Owl, The Festive Owl
- Reinier Suyderhoud & Dave van Dalen, CEO, DGTL & Head of Marketing, DGTL
- Sara Napolitano, Insomniac, Recruitment & Organization Development Specialist
- Will Chase, Head of Communications, Obscura Digital
- Graham Berry, Festival Writer
- Amanda Cosenza, Co-Founder of Festivate
- Eugene Stuckless, Staff Journalist, Magnetic Magazine
- Ryan Kunkel, Co-CEO, Red Frog Productions
- Laura Mason, Former Fest300/Everfest Managing Editor
- Eamon Armstrong, Pretty Prince of Parties
- Stephanie Rosa, Founder, Festival Squad and Co-Founder, Festivate
- Nova Han, Nova Han Productions / Madison House Presents.
From influencers to producers to entrepreneurs to tastemakers to backbone organizers, these judges represent a wide range of involvement in the festival communities.
The categories for this year’s FestX awards celebrate the grand diversity and innovations of festivals this past year. Nominees represent bold creativity, a commitment to bettering the communities in which they operate, celebration of niche cultures, a welcoming environment, engaging events that foster deep connections with audiences, dazzling and innovative production, unique uses of technology, and much more. The visionaries behind these events have built inclusive and innovative cultures that have been sustained and supported by their loyal followings.
The thirteen categories are as follows:
- Best Beer/Wine Festival
- Best Brand + Festival Pairing
- Best Esports Festival
- Best Family-Friendly Festival
- Best Fan Community
- Best Food Festival
- Best New Festival
- Best Production Design
- Best Relationship with Fans
- Best Use of Technology at a Festival
- Outstanding Green Event
- Outstanding Social Impact
- Fan’s Choice Award
Twelve of the categories have five nominees for the judges to choose from. The Fan Choice Award is open for fans to nominate and vote which is their favorite.
Best Beer/Wine Festival
Festivals are not just about the music. The nominees in this category bring together enthusiasts of alcohol of all kinds. Attendees at these events enjoy the craft of brewing, fermenting, and all aspects of creating these fine drinks. They are brewmasters and sommeliers who gather at these festivals to celebrate their spirited culture. The nominees are: Bacon and Beer Classic (USA, Multiple Cities), BottleRock Napa (Napa Valley, California), Wine Riot (USA, Multiple Cities), OctFest (New York City, New York), and Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany).
Best Brand + Festival Pairing
Sponsorships are a critical part of festivals. Bringing brands on to help fund an event can be tremendously helpful. The festivals in this category went above and beyond, integrating brand activations creatively and organically into their events. These festivals and brands thoughtfully collaborated to create memorable and entertaining experiences for guests. The nominees are: ACL Festival + American Express: “Amex Experience”, Bonnaroo + Bacardi: “The Oasis”, Coachella + Heineken: “Heineken House”, Governors Ball + Got2B: “Style Bar”, and Life is Beautiful Festival + JustKids: Murals, Art Installations, Etc.
Best Esports Festival
Gathering an average of 40,000 gamers the five nominees for this category represent some of the fastest growing festivals in the world. At these events, attendees complete in round the clock multiplayer tournaments while also learning and discovering more about the world of Esports. These massive affairs represent one of the most robust and emerging festival genres in the world. The nominees are: Blizzcon (Burbank, California), DreamHack (Global), Esports Festival Hong Kong (Hong Kong), GIRLGAMER Esports Festival (Portugal), and HUE Festival (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania).
Best Family-Friendly Festival
The nominees in this category have gone the extra mile to ensure that guests of all ages, especially children feel welcome. Inclusive programming, thoughtful camping arrangements, and friendly, welcoming environment for festival goers that have brought their children are all features of these events. The nominees are: Appaloosa Festival (Front Royal, Virginia), ACL Festival (Austin, Texas): “Austin Kiddie Limits”, Lucidity Festival (Santa Barbara, California), New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (New Orleans, Louisiana), and Texas Renaissance Festival (Todd Mission, Texas).
Best Fan Community
Festival goers at these events are turned into participants that foster a special community of supporters around the festival. These events offer opportunities for guests to feel connected to the overall culture of the festival. They are loyal supporters moved by a common experience. The nominees are: Desert Hearts Festival, “Headliners” – EDC Las Vegas, “ShipFam” – HOLY SHIP!, Groove Cruise, and RuPaul’s DragCon.
Best Food Festival
Attendees at these events are sure to have their bellies satisfied with a plethora of delicacies. From huge culinary events to stand alone food festivals, the nominees in this category go the extra mile to create one of a kind, multi-sensory experiences all over the globe. The festivals work to provide a myriad of options for guests from banh mi to new takes on pizza. The nominees are: LA Food Fest (Los Angeles, California), Music Tastes Good (Long Beach, California), Napoli Pizza Village (Naples, Italy), Tulum FSWF: Taste of Mexico (Tulum, Mexico), and Vegan Soulfest (Baltimore, MD).
Best New Festival
Hosting a music festival is no easy task, starting one from scratch is an even greater feat. However, some festivals master the formula straight out of the gate and impress everyone. The events in this category have made a name for themselves both in the US and around the world. The nominees are: All Things Go Fall Classic (Union Market, Washington DC), Mempho Music Festival (Memphis, Tennessee), Same Same But Different Festival (Lake Perris, California), Secret Project Festival (Los Angeles, California), and Vujaday Music Festival (Barbados).
Best Production Design
Every year festivals seem to host larger stages, grander designs, and elevate the overall experience from entrance to exit through production design. This year’s nominees have mastered the craft of bringing festivals to life through experimental materials and explosive colors. Catering to the visual experience of the audience, those in this category work hard to turn the grounds into a dazzling spectacle that leaves a lasting impression. The nominees are: EDC Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada), Electric Forest (Rothbury, Michigan), Imagine Music Festival (Atlanta, Georgia), Lost Lands Music Festival (Thornville, Ohio), and Tomorrowland Belgium (Belgium).
Best Relationship with Fans
From allowing fans to pick the line up to fostering close relationships with their audience on social media, the nominees in this category go the extra mile when it comes to engaging with attendees. The events not only make their audience feel heard, but they truly listen to their fans. They are sure to connect both online and on site at the event. The nominees are: BUKU Music + Art Project (New Orleans, Louisiana), Dirtybird Campout (Modesto, California), KAABOO Del Mar (Del Mar, California), Lucidity Festival (Santa Barbara, California), and Mood Indigo (Bombay, India).
Best Use of Technology at a Festival
Things have never been more exciting in the world of festival technology. Whether it’s drones lighting up the sky in unison to the music, a robot serving someone a drink, or virtual reality storytelling in war zones, this year’s nominees are innovating in ways that transcend guests into an alternate reality. They have created extraordinary elements at their events through the use of alternative methods. The nominees are: Coachella + Intel: “Live Drown Show during Odesza”, Day For Night + VT Pro Design: “Telestron”, Grapes & Grass + Spigot Labs: “Taste Tracking”, MOOGfest (Durham, North Carolina), and Panorama + HP: “The Lab”.
Outstanding Green Event
Those in this category are dedicated to creating responsible solutions to the negative impact that large events like festivals have on the environment in which they operate. They are dedicated towards making their events sustainable. Their commitment to making their events environmentally conscious has made them stand out. The nominees are: California Roots Music & Arts Festival (Monterey, California), Envision Festival (Uvita, Costa Rica), Lollapalooza, ACL Fest: Rock and Recycle Program, Luminate Festival (Golden Bay, New Zealand), and Splendour in the Grass (Byron Bay, Australia).
Outstanding Social Impact
Festivals can serve as a catalyst for change. The nominees in this category have leveraged their gatherings to provoke new ways of thinking, inspire new ways of engaging with the community, and push the culture further. These events have focused on implementing progressive harm reduction policies, organized political protests, published magazines, and encourage thoughts that work to change our society at large. The nominees are: AFROPUNK (Brooklyn, New York), Genius Loci (Baja, Mexico), Hip Hop Film Festival (New York City, New York), Quest Festival (Vietnam), and Tmrw.Tday Culture Fest (Negril, Jamaica).
Fan’s Choice Award
A public vote was hosted from September to October to capture who is the favorite festival as determined by the fans. Some festivals breed more loyalists than others. This can be seen by the adoration splashed across social media pages. The global festival community was asked to put their love to a vote and determine the fan favorite of 2018.
Thanks to the judges, nominees, fans who voted, and everyone who attended the 2018 FestX Awards!