"I'm so excited about next year," said event producer Jim Lewi. "We're coming back. An event like this is strictly a numbers game, and we know how to do it right." This year's inaugural festival -- a mashup of food vendors, Food Network personalities, local chefs, and bands -- was plagued, at least at the start of the 10-hour event, by long lines, food shortages, and general chaos. Lewi said 8,600 attendees got in, with several more thousands unable even to make it through the gates. SF Weekly was a co-sponsor of the festival.
Lewi reiterated to SFoodie that he's taken the blame for problems at the festival, personally answering thousands of angry emails and refunding more than half the ticket gross. "We've given pretty much every dollar back," he said, adding that he himself has lost well over $1 million from the debacle. The producer said he's held four postmortems to figure out precisely what went wrong. "In 20 years of doing festivals, I've never had the entire audience show up at doors," Lewi said. He'd previously suggested that some of the food shortages were due to lackluster advance sales, followed by throngs of last-minute attendees rushing the gates.
Still, Lewi seemed undeterred about next year's Great American Food and Music Fest, a six-week traveling festival tentatively scheduled to kick off in May. He said the festival would hit 12 cities -- a different city each Saturday and Sunday through the end of June or early July. "It'll be a bigger event than what people saw this time, I can promise you that," he said. Lewi hoped to have some of the same food vendors, with the addition of pizza providers, additional hot dog makers and regional barbecue joints, a West Coast deli, and perhaps representatives of Asian and Mexican foods.
Lewi declined to name a kick-off city for next year's festival, but said it wouldn't be in the Bay Area. "When we come back to the Bay Area, I want to make sure we do something for the people who were disappointed by the June 13 event: early admission to provide an early crack at the food, early access to tickets, discounted tickets, or perhaps a pre-party on the night before the festival.
"We will take care of the people who stuck it out for this one," Lewi said.