Back in May, organizers of Tampa's Chillin' Music Fest pledged the reggae-rock event would return for a third year on Oct. 15 at Curtis Hixon Park, with "artist announcements coming soon."
Even Monday, the festival's website featured a countdown clock to the big day -- even though a lineup still had yet to materialize, and tickets had not gone on sale.
Now we know why. The Chillin' Music Fest is officially going on hiatus in 2016 due to what organizers called a "near saturation of outdoor music events available" in Tampa Bay.
Sound familiar? That's the same reason Live Nation's Big Guava Music Festival went on hiatus for 2016, and the same reason WMNF-88.5 FM announced last week it was pulling the plug on Tropical Heatwave.
"From May, we started running into some hiccups in scheduling," Chillin' president and CEO Scott Bush said in an interview. "We were also trying to work with a couple of other productions in the area to limit the amount of saturation, and we weren't able to come to terms with some of the other groups in the area. This proceeded all the way almost through last week. That's when we decided to pull the plug and take everything we've learned and apply it to next year."
According to Bush, Chillin' will return on Oct. 14, 2017.
Since 2014, the reggae-rock festival had attracted acts like O.A.R., Stephen Marley and Michael Franti to Curtis Hixon, drawing nearly 5,000 fans last year.
This year, however, Chillin's lineup and impact were dinged by three other outdoor reggae-rock events that beat it to the punch, all taking place at St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park: Reggae Rise Up with the Dirty Seeds on March 5, Rebelution on June 25 and Slightly Stoopid and SOJA on Aug. 14.
"They seem to be running every three to six months, and we feel that to try to separate ourselves from the flock, we need to add to the experience," Bush said.
That could include expanding Chillin's focus beyond alt-reggae to include Americana or jam band music, avenues the festival explored before pulling the plug this year.
Tickets for the 2016 Chillin' Music Festival never went on sale, so refunds won't be an issue. For Bush, the goal now is to look ahead to next year and try to re-establish Chillin's place in the market.
"We're just excited to make our plans for 2017, and hoping everyone's going to come back again."
-- Jay Cridlin