Behind The Scenes At The McDowell Mountain Music Festival

March 28, 2014

(Photo courtesy of @mcdowlmtnmusic)
A photo of the festival from a past year.

We went behind the scenes of the annual McDowell Mountain Music Festival, where five acres of Hance Park are being transformed into an outdoor concert arena this weekend.

"There’ll be about 1,000 people in this area. And that’s food and bar," said John Largay, the owner of Wespac Construction which sets up the festival each year.

But Largay’s not just here to oversee the setup. He was the guy who started the festival 11 years ago.

"Well you get to a point in your career where you feel like you need to give back. That it’s not a take take take. It’s a give and take philosophy," Largay said.

In 2004, Wespac started the McDowell Mountain Music Festival. Every year the proceeds go to charity. This year, those proceeds go to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a family homeless shelter called UMOM New Day Center.  You might already know this if you have attended the festival.

But what you might not know is that all this hammering and heavy lifting is done for free, too. Largay said it takes more than 400 volunteers to put on the event. About 100 are Wespac employees. The rest are from the community and other businesses. Plus the fence, the stages, even the portable toilets are all donated by other contractors.

Largay expects about 5,000 visitors per day this year, which is about half of festival capacity. With $50 tickets for a day and $125 for all three days, they expect to raise between $200,000 and $300,000 for the charities.

There will be a different lineup of artists on two stages each day. Headliners include electronic band STS9 from Santa Cruz on Friday; jam band Disco Biscuits from Philadelphia and Grammy-winning blues duo Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite.

Saturday is the biggest jam with 11 artists taking the stage that day. There is also an arts market and both local and out-of-town food vendors. The festival runs today through Sunday.