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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Producer of Disastrous Great American Food and Music Fest Hasn't Slept Since Saturday

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge Can you say 'clusterf**k'? - SHAUNANDJENNY/FLICKR
  • shaunandjenny/Flickr
  • Can you say 'clusterf**k'?
A co-producer of last weekend's trainwreck Great American Food and Music Fest began to cry as he talked to SFoodie about his life since Saturday. "I haven't slept," said Jim Lewi from his home office in Southern California, describing how he's personally answered some 1,700 emails left on the festival Web site, mostly - as you might imagine -- sending apologies. "It literally started on Saturday afternoon," Lewi said. "My BlackBerry went crazy."

The longtime rock producer seemed to take personally the messages describing how in some cases the festival -- which suffered from hours-long lines and food shortges - ruined attendees' birthdays and anniversaries. "I'm taking responsibility for what happened," Lewi said. "At the same time, is there a future for this event? There is no question in my mind." The producer is compiling notes about what went wrong from both attendees and participants such as concert producer Live Nation and food company Aramark, in preparation for next Monday's formal postmortem. "We want to find out who dropped the ball, when they dropped the ball, and how they dropped the ball."

Lewi reported that ticket sales prior to the event were sluggish, followed by a surge of last-minute interest, one reason food providers may have undercalculated amounts. "There didn't seem to be a lot of buzz around town, but then all of a sudden we saw the traffic start to back up."

Another culprit is Saturday's epic failure was the cashless wristband system intended to speed attendees through food lines. Lewi said there was a backup airport card system, which also failed. As a second backup, Lewi distributed cash banks prior to the show, but, he said, it took some 45 minutes to get the cash system working. "By then, there were 1,500 people waiting in the line to get refunds," he said. "How on God's Earth could this possibly have happened?"

Still, Lewi sounded convinced that the producers would try again. "This has been a dream for so long, and we know it works - it just didn't work this time."

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