Mammoth Brewing Company Owner Sean Turner announced this week that he has sold an ownership stake in Mammoth’s Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza to Rich Sherman, President and CEO of Omega Events based in Foothill Ranch, Calif.
Omega will also produce the Newport Beach Jazz Festival this year and has produced the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point in prior years.
The agreement calls for a transition in ownership to Omega over a three-year period.
Despite the change, both Turner and Sherman expect the audience will notice little difference in the event for 2022, which will take place from August 4-7. The musical lineup has not yet been announced.
Another change is that Harvest Moon Presents will not be booking the talent this year, as it has for the past 25 years.
Turner, who said he’s been looking into selling the event for the past few years, initially approached Harvest Moon about it, but Vanko and his partner Sarah Mason passed.
Sherman had nothing but praise for Harvest Moon.
“They’ve done a tremendous job over the years with the talent mix, sprinkling in new names with the headliners and keeping it fresh – all within the constraints of a limited budget.”
Another small change: Cocktails will be sold all four days of the event, not just on Thursdays and Sundays.
What will remain the same this year: Turner will remain the master of ceremonies on the brewer’s side, where the typical 70-80 breweries will participate.
Peter Corcoran of Sierra Event Management will oversee the venue, which remains the Woodsite.
Turner says the sale to Omega will allow him to concentrate on Mammoth Brewing Company, which, he says, he has no interest in selling.
Since we last caught up with Turner, his deal to buy Great Basin Brewing out of Reno fell through. Instead, he bought the smaller Lead Dog Brewing, also out of Reno, which consists of a production facility and two tap rooms, located in Reno and Sparks.
Turner says the expanded capacity offered by the Lead Dog facility will allow him to expand distribution into Las Vegas, Utah and Idaho. He’s also got a new sales representative in Southern California.
Both Turner and Sherman said it’s fairly unusual for someone to operate a large festival like Bluesapalooza as a “side hustle.”
“That’s a lot of pressure,” said Sherman. “A thousand small decisions go into producing an event of this size.”
The elephant in the room remains the venue. The Woodsite is booked for this year and not beyond, and while the Town of Mammoth Lakes has talked about developing an alternative event site over the years, it hasn’t done more than talk.
But this is an obstacle Sherman has dealt with and overcome in the past.
“We had a jazz festival that moved four times, and each time we moved, the crowd got bigger,” he said. “If it’s just another event, maybe you’d have resistance, but this [Bluesapalooza] is a special event and it’s gaining fans.”
An incentive Sherman had to acquire the event lies with the uncertainty over Doheny, which traditionally was held in May but has been cancelled three years running. State Parks did approve a music festival (Eddie Vedder’s Ohana Festival) at Doheny this fall so there’s a chance the blues festival returns in 2023.
As for Jim Vanko of HarvestMoon, forgive him for waxing a bit nostalgic this week:
“We celebrated our 25th Anniversary of the Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesaplooza this past summer, and it is amazing now to think back on its humble beginnings.
We started in the parking lot of Whiskey Creek (now Mammoth Brewing Company/The Eatery) with just a few “microbreweries,” a local band and a handful of local beer lovers! We are proud to say that it has grown into one of the best Beer and Music Festivals in the West and a signature event for Mammoth Lakes.
Speaking for the HarvestMoon production team, it has been an exciting ride – all the great bands, the beers, the wood chips, the blue skies and the thundershowers … but most of all, the terrific people that have attended and supported the festival over the years!
We raise a glass to the festival’s continued success and many more fun experiences for locals and visitors.”