Since launching Baja Beach Fest in 2018, festival founders Aaron Ampudia and Chris Den Uijl dreamed of bringing their vision to Chicago. After four years, Memorial Day Weekend saw their dream come to life, with the two partnering with C3 Presents in order to create Sueños music festival.
The reggaeton takeover at Chicago’s Grant Park went down over two days on May 28 and 29. Sueños (which translates to “dreams”) highlights the Latin community in the Windy city with good music and curated local Latin food vendors.
Ozuna, Farruko, J Balvin and Wisin & Yandel top a lineup that also includes Myke Towers, Jhay Cortez, El Alfa, Sech, Natanael Cano, Fuerza Regida and more.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to produce it at this level,” Ampudia tells Pollstar. “To me being Mexican American, it feels like a sense of pride to be able to be a part of this Sueños festival brand that we’ve created. It’s a super underserved market. Once we launched it, we were super nervous about how people were going to respond.”
Ampudia and Den Uijl’s worries quickly disappeared when they realized they’d need to expand the festival grounds to meet the demand. Another 5,000 tickets were added to the event, increasing Sueños’ capacity to 45,000.
GA passes for the 18+ event started at $199 plus fees, with VIP passes starting at $500.
Their partnership with C3 came about organically, with Ampudia and Den Uijl long wanting to work with the company. The duo had seen C3 as a role model for years, and when the opportunity presented itself for them to partner in Chicago, they jumped at it.
“I’ve always looked to their operations and just their nuts and bolts are unmatched,” Den Uijl says. “When Aaron and I were thinking about growing in the U.S. we really felt like we needed to come out swinging, like our year one was a year three festival, and kind of break through the growing pains of doing it ourselves in a new market. Our goal was to reach out with someone that really aligned with our vision and could fill in the pieces for new festivals. It’s been this really amazing synergy that our teams have come together and created this family vibe that we’ve strived for down in Baja.”
With the UEFA Champions League due to take place on May 28, Sueños will also be displaying the game on screens during the event.
“Aaron’s really spearheaded every single touchpoint of this festival to feel authentic and a celebration around Latin culture,” Den Uijl says. “From the food to the rich colors and imagery, to the ancillary music beyond the headliners and artists that are playing, everything is really going to be and symbolize this celebration of culture.”
While Ampudia and Den Uijl considered other states such as California and Texas, the idea of putting on an event at Chicago’s Grant Park called to them. The historic site has hosted festivals such as Lollapalooza, Pride In The Park, and more.
“There were a lot of other markets we were looking at, but it really just went back to the site,” Den Uijl says. “We felt like this site symbolized something. It was a really big moment for Latinos to be able to have their own event in one of the most iconic parks. And that just nailed it in for us when we got it.”
After securing Grant Park, the two went to work to integrate the local Latin community into the Sueños brand. Along with partnering with the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center in support of their Youth Media Center, the festival is bringing in local vendors requested by the fans themselves.
“For Baja and Sueños, we always listen to our fans,” Ampudia says. “I think that’s one thing that we do really well. We asked them once we had a good enough following and dropped the lineup, ‘So, who do you guys wanna see?’ And all these names came out.”
Sueños curated their vendors through social media, with options including traditional lollipops and ice cream, tacos, ribs, vegan mexican food and Ampudia’s most-anticipated option: a Hot Cheeto burger dipped in cheese.
“We made a spreadsheet of who was the most requested,” Ambudia says. “There are all these types of food vendors from here that fans requested, and we made sure to work with C3 to be able to be like, ‘Okay, we really need these ones.’” s