Boots In The Park: Activated Events Continues To Develop Unique Venues & Untapped Markets

Activated Events
Courtesy Activated Events
– Activated Events
put on some of the very first post-pandemic country festivals in the U.S., with Boots In The Park playing San Diego, Fresno, Bakersfield and other Southwest markets, including Dustin Lynch pictured here at San Diego’s Waterfront Park Aug. 1.

It’s easy to look at successful events taking place during the pandemic and credit the great “pivot,” those who got creative to make lemonade from lemons and were just crazy enough for it to work. 

While some are getting more attention thanks to making themselves available and taking chances in 2020 and 2021, that doesn’t mean they came out of nowhere.
“What we’ve been able to do as a company, and this is from day one, is really look for unique venues,” says Steve Thacher, founder and event producer at Activated Events, which puts on outdoor shows in multiple markets in California and Arizona, including the long-running Wet Electric series and the more recent Boots In The Park country series featuring artists such as Jon Pardi, Chris Young, Old Dominion and more.
Over the years Wet Electric, which takes place at Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe, Ariz., has hosted the likes of Tiësto, Dillon Francis, Diplo and other major electronic music stars.
 “How many people were taking over an entire waterpark and doing a concert?” adds Thacher. “In Arizona, we built a stage in the middle of a wave pool – the largest wave pool in America at about 2.5 million gallons. It’s the uniqueness of these events, from the waterpark [of Wet Electric] to really being the first people in Huntington Beach [Calif.] doing events right on the sand, building little cities – staging, roads, bars, 300-plus portable restrooms,” adds Thacher. “All of that stuff, food vendors, Ferris wheels, everything.”
Active since 2011, Activated Events was aggressive in 2021, announcing Boots In The Park shows for June with Chris Young, Scotty McCreery, Dylan Scott, Tenille Townes and others.
“There were a lot of people asking us to cancel those events early on,” says Thacher, adding that the shows went on sale in fall of 2020. “They were thinking California would be the last state to come back online, saying these shows will never happen and so forth. We stuck with it and we’re so glad that we did. We had a bit of luck with Governor Newsom officially opening the state June 15, and we really were the first festival back in California on June 18th and 19th.”
Thacher says they moved nearly 60,000 tickets in the six weeks after california reopened, with shows in Fresno, Calif., Norco, Calif,  and San Diego, along with an “80s Icons” event featuring Lisa Lisa and Stevie B July 2 in Norco and a July 3 “Festival Libertad” show in Norco featuring regional Mexican artists. 
These were followed by a second Boots In The Park leg featuring Jon Pardi & Friends, taking place in the aforementioned cities as well as Bakersfield, Calif., with 40,000 tickets sold out between four shows, although the Sept. 18 Tempe date was rescheduled to March 19 due to COVID requirements. 
Although mature markets with known concert-going fanbases, Thacher says the outdoor niche is about providing a unique experience. 
“Our mindset was big artists, little venues – to feel the energy and excitement of the crowd, of the 4,000 people for Billy Currington or when Dustin Lynch sold out the following year, there’s really not a bad seat in the house,” Thacher says of the first Boots in The Park events in Fresno.
“At some of these big magnificent arenas, you feel kind of disconnected. But, when you look at where we do it in Norco, it’s at a beautiful sports complex there, or at Waterfront Park in San Diego – it’s really more than just the music,” says Thacher, mentioning shows with Old Dominion and Dustin Lynch specifically. “The production was over the top and, to be able to roam around the venue and stop over at the 40-by 40-foot line dancing tent and do line dancing … interact with the food vendors and art installations, great Instagram photo opportunities – there’s more to do than just sitting still for three hours in a seat at more of a traditional venue.”
Independent festival production is considered one of the riskier endeavors in the live events space, and Thacher says being aggressive and having experience has paid off, but it’s not easy. 
“It is very risky. They’re not all easy and I wouldn’t say they’re all winners, although we’ve been on a pretty good streak for a few years,” adds Thacher. “But I’d say the early years of doing the outdoor events and breaking into it are actually quite challenging. From logistics and planning to securing the talent we wanted, to being financially successful, very challenging.”