Fly Away To Forever Never Land

This weekend, central California is having an adults-only festival but not a “boom-chicka-wow-wow” adults-only festival. Think festival for big babies. Wait!! Think backyard party for kids 21 and over. Before heading to Avila Beach, Pollstar quizzed Forever Never Land founder/CEO Valerie Wang.

Wang, who has a background in special events from the nightclub level to the VMAs, is premiering the Forever Never Land Festival at Avila Beach Golf Resort Sept. 13-14. This interested us for several reasons but primarily because it’s within driving distance. Pollstar is based in Fresno, making Los Angeles and San Francisco expensive destinations, to say nothing of Coachella in far-south Indio.

But Avila Beach and nearby San Luis Obispo are just a couple hours away. There are a lot of people who live around here, and a deficit of festivals. It’s a great idea.

Forever Never Land also caught our attention because it’s being promoted as “a festival completely and solely centered around the idea of fun.” Although the event features DJs like A-Trak and bands like Everclear, it is filled with stuff like a giant waterslide, a zip line, a VIP open bar, a foam party, bounce houses … all at the Avila Beach Golf Resort, overlooking the ocean. Hell yeah, we’re going.

This is a first-year festivals though, and promoters know how hesitant communities can be to having their driveways blocked.  The golf course hosts other events and the concern was this festival was just one too-many things for the town.

Wang wanted to introduce Forever Never Land with a 10,000 capacity but after a June meeting with county supervisors, it was scaled back to 3,000. Not much changed with the event except for the removal of headliner Sublime With Rome.

It does sound, though, that if things go smoothly, the event will be coming back and expand. If nothing else, Wang did provide a charming response at the county supervisors meeting:

“The entire event is supposed to be about fun and having adults re-live some of their favorite years,” Wang told supervisors, saying her target audience is 25 to 45 years old.

“I guess we can’t go to this,” supervisor Frank Mecham said.

“How old do you feel?” Wang responded, according to The Tribune

Photo: Courtesy of Forever Never Land
Forever Never Land’s tagline is “You Don’t Have To Grow Up”

It sounds like a very big backyard birthday party more than a music festival.

It’s funny you mention backyard birthday party. I’ve thrown a lot of events in Los Angeles, some private, some public, but one that inspired this event was my birthday party a few years ago. I rented out a warehouse in Los Angeles and threw a gigantic paint party. It got so big I had to hire security. I’ve never seen so many grown adults have such a good time getting messy [with] paint.

When that happened I thought maybe there’s a market for the young professionals in their late-20s to early 40s who just want to be kids again. We took that concept and threw a number of games and activities into it … ideas like Slip ‘N Slides. Some activities were brought to us by our vendors.

The 200-foot waterslide is something one of our vendors saw at a trade show and bought it just so we could have it at our festival. So it was exciting, just to hear that they bought into our concept.

A lot of first-time festivals have to start off small and get bigger as they gain the community’s trust.

Absolutely. We’ve had a lot of things thrown at us, a lot of obstacles to overcome, but I think the light at the end of this tunnel is year two. It’s the fact that after a successful event this weekend, next year is going to be a hundred times easier. Word of mouth is going to spread about this new concept with all these activities, rides and games.

Photo: Courtesy of Forever Never Land

What is your background in event planning?

I’ve done events for as long as I can remember – middle school, high school, college. In college I did events for our campus nightclub, student fundraisers and I interned for Walt Disney Events and a number of PR agencies. I also worked for a spring break company, After I graduated I worked full-time events for PBS. I did a lot of nonprofit fundraisers, galas, award shows, and I also freelanced for Viacom, so I have experience in small events and huge, extravagant events like the VMAs and the movie awards, working alongside some of the top event producers at Viacom.

About a year and a half ago I came up with this crazy idea and spoke to a few of my event contacts who have been in the special event industry for a long time. I decided to take the plunge and got connected to people who have been working in the festival industry for a long time. I’ve learned a lot over the last year. It’s been a great ride.

Is this your first event in this realm?


Are you partnering with any promoters of the AEG / Live Nation variety?

No.  We are an LLC, a privately backed company in the state of California, with private individual investors. We are not backed by a huge company like AEG. I think that gives us freedom to produce an event the way we want it to be. It’s not very corporate. There are financial challenges, obviously, but it’s been a great way to work together with our backers and produce our collective vision.


Being from the Central Valley of California, I can appreciate events at places other than Los Angeles or San Francisco. Was Avila Beach picked, in part, because of this untapped market?

In choosing the location we looked at a number of things. We obviously looked at competition and there are a lot of festivals and events in Los Angeles and Southern California, and there are a number of staple events in northern California in the Bay Area. We were not only looking at when to have it but also location. I live in LA but I grew up in the Bay Area and I meet up with my friends there every year. That’s when I discovered Avila Beach and the Central Coast, and fell in love with the scenery.

When I found the venue, and they wanted to partner with us, it was a no brainer to put it in this market that doesn’t have any competition and is halfway between LA and San Francisco.

With capacity at 3,000, I’m assuming it’s sold out.

Not quite. I think the local market tends to buy tickets the week of and on walkup. All of our partners tell us that, and we expect to sell out but tickets are still available.

What should patrons expect?

We have two stages. One is our DJ stage headlined by A-Trak. We also have Party Favor, Antiserum, Goldroom, D.Veloped and other acts. Our other stage is our band stage. That’s headlined by Everclear on Saturday and includes acts like Vertical Horizon. So we have a good mix. We also have a number of local DJs and bands. Most of our acts are from California. We have two local San Luis Obispo bands and a number of bands from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In terms of activities, the highlight, in my mind, is the 200-foot waterslide with a 20-foot vertical drop. We have a foam party and a paint party at night.

We also have the “International World” where one of our vendors will be serving a taste of items from seven countries so people can eat their way around the world.

There’s a lot to do. We want to keep people active. We want people to have stuff to do other than listen to great music.

What is some of the feedback so far?

We’ve had a lot of people, locally especially, excited to see an event of this caliber and size come to this community. Our supporters are excited and hope Forever Never Land will put Central California on the map as a destination spot for music. Everyone we’ve talked to is excited about the concept.

And everyone is excited it’s a 21-and-up event – including people who are under 21 – because we’re offering something different from other festivals.

For all the golfers out there – what about the golf resort? Will there be footprints in the sand traps when it’s done?

Yes. (laughs).  We’re turning one of the sand traps into a makeshift beach volleyball court. But we’ll be putting all the sand back. We’ll rake it down. It will be as good as new. But we’re on a golf resort. We might as well take advantage of what it has to offer. The greens are turning into nice little picnic/corn hole/beach-game areas.

Let’s talk about the Music Saves Lives angle.

Music Saves Lives is a great nonprofit that uses concerts to raise blood donations for the American Red Cross and other blood centers. We met with founder Russel Hornbeek and I fell in love with his mission and his team’s energy. We decided to partner and use Forever Never Land to raise blood donations. He’s partnered with the Vans Warped Tour, etc., but I don’t think he’s ever done anything big in Central California. It’s a great way to get his nonprofit on the map in this area.

Not only are we using meet & greet experiences to raise blood donations, we’ll be donating a portion of our proceeds to their nonprofit.

Our goal is to be in four cities in the U.S. We want to take [Music Saves Lives] wherever we go, whether it’s festivals or one-off events.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I want to hammer home that tickets are still available and we’re very much looking forward to making it a great event. I hope everyone can come support us in our first year.

Photo: Andi Kling
Filene Center At Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va.

Saturday, Sept. 13 features performances from Everclear, RJD2, Vertical Horizon, Antiserum, D.Veloped, The Spazmatics, Dr. Clark, Louder Space, Starane, Public, Vanaprasta, Astro, Double Down Charlie Brown, Four Fingers and DJ Hecktik.

Sunday offers sets from A-Trak, Robbie Rivera, Goldroom (DJ set), Viceroy, Marcus Schossow, Gigamesh, Party Favor, Figgy, Josh Vietti, Miner, Kiven, Nikhil Korula Band, Convex, Will Magid, Jafarey, DJ Jackrabbittt and DJ Flashback.

For more information visit