America's appetite for music festivals has proved remarkably strong over the past decade, and there's been no shortage of promoters and organizers cashing in on the demand. But festivals don't always work out: Attendance at Kanrocksas, a two-day party at the Kansas Speedway last year, was shy of expectations, and it is not returning in 2012.
This year, another goofily named festival is dipping its toes in the Kansas City live-music market: Dancefestopia, a two-day event at Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park. Where Kanrocksas aimed to please everyone (Black Keys, Bassnectar, Eminem), Dancefestopia is focusing mostly on hip-hop, pop and dance acts. Friday night's headliner is Flo Rida, followed by a late-night dance set from Australian, big-in-Europe dance act Yolanda Be Cool. Saturday's main draw is weed-rapper Wiz Khalifa, after which house DJ Morgan Page spins. Saturday's bill also includes Yelawolf (a sort of Southern Eminem) and millennial-friendly party-pop from 3OH!3.
"We booked toward dancing, movement, activity," says Doug Bordegon, who, along with his brother, Kevin, operates Borda Productions, the firm staging the event. "We didn't want lawn-chair artists. We wanted a consistent, high-energy party both days. And we wanted artists that had maybe not traditionally visited Kansas City, which we got with Wiz and Flo Rida."
The New Jersey-raised brothers started throwing parties back in college at the University of Dayton and have gradually upped the scale. "We do a New Year's Eve event every year at the Scottish Rite Temple here in town that draws 10,000 people. We do Halloween events, lots of club promotion," Kevin Bordegon says. The pair had been kicking around the idea for a music festival in Kansas City for a couple of years and started developing the concept last May.
"We looked at just about every venue in Kansas City and the three-hour radius around it — national parks, state parks, larger venues," he says. "Ultimately, we felt that having it at Berkley Park was the best option. It's on the river, and there's this beautiful park setting, but being downtown also gives it an urban feel. And it's a way to showcase some of Kansas City's greatest assets, like the River Market. A lot of people don't even know about Berkley Park. The feeling you get at that park," he continues, "you can't get that in Overland Park or at the Legends. It's got a real community feeling to it."
Naturally, the goal is for Dancefestopia to evolve into an annual event, but that all depends on how many people show up at the gate. "We're going for the college students, Power & Light crowd, young-active-professionals crowd," Doug says.
"Any festival, the first year, people will either say it was too crowded or not crowded enough," Kevin adds. "We've gone to a lot of festivals to try and research this and work it all out. I think we've got it at a good starting place. We're keeping it very affordable. Beer is $5, liquor is $6, water is $2. We're not trying to scam everybody. We want to be around next year."