Attendees, Phoenix officials praise inaugural Lost Lake Festival

PHOENIX – Thousands of people converged in central Phoenix this past weekend as part of the inaugural Lost Lake Festival, a three-day music, arts and food event. Despite earlier concerns about security issues and potential traffic snarls, attendees and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the event “exceeded expectations.”

“Steele Indian School Park has never looked more artistic or beautiful, and there were opportunities for local artists and restaurateurs,” Stanton said in a statement released Monday. “It went as well as could possibly be expected. There’s room to grow, and I’m very confident Lost Lake will be back for years to come.”

More than 45,000 people attended the multi-stage festival, which featured more than 50 performances, an event spokeswoman said in an email.

Some concertgoers had expressed concerns about security, especially after the mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Attendee Lauren Hornberger, who also lives near the park, said she felt safe both at home and in the festival.

“I spotted a lot of security and Phoenix police at the festival,” Hornberger said. “I definitely felt safe, but not overwhelmed with that presence.”

Austin Miller, a senior at Arizona State University, said he served as a community liaison on the advisory board for Superfly, the production company behind the festival.

“I attend a lot of festivals, and this was the first one with actual full-body metal detectors implemented at the security gate,” Miller said. “Superfly went above and beyond to make sure everyone in attendance was safe and sound.”

Organizers had remained tight-lipped about security prior to the event. Phoenix police arrested three people and transported an officer injured during an aggravated assault.

“For three days of activities with thousands of people, it’s pretty good considering the numbers,” Sgt. Vince Lewis said.

Superfly, the creators of sister festivals Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, said they chose Phoenix because of its “energy and creative shift,” according a news release. City officials had said they were excited about the prestige a festival like this would bring to the area and how it could serve as an economic driver.

“These things typically impact a community in the tens of millions of dollars,” Superfly co-founder Rick Farman said in March.

For example, Outside Lands in San Francisco had between 40,000 and 60,000 attendees a day during its inaugural year in 2008, according to a previous Cronkite News story. By 2014, the festival had nearly 200,000 attendees and an economic impact of about $60 million – 11 percent of which was collected by the city of San Francisco.

It’s unclear how much of an economic impact Lost Lake will have on Phoenix, but some of the vendors at the festival called it a success.

Flip Isard, owner of Frites Street, said his food truck was busy the entire time.

“Everybody there that I talked to made money,” Isard said. “It’s a long day. If you’re not wanting to work back to back to back 18-hour-days, it’s not for you. That’s kind of our bread and butter, and that’s where we strive. We can handle 300 to 400 orders a day, so to find an event like that is great for us.”

On Twitter, Lost Lake representatives thanked fans and all those involved in the festival for making the “magic happen” and “getting lost with us.”

Noelle Starnes, a college junior from South Dakota, flew to Phoenix to attend the festival with her best friend and celebrate her 21st birthday.

“It’s cool that I was a part of the first Lost Lake Festival,” Starnes said. “It was incredible. There was always something new to look at or experience – more than just the bands. The overall camaraderie of everyone there was so friendly because we are all there to have a great time.”

The festival also featured local artists, including Lisa Von Hoffner, who painted a mural throughout the weekend. Von Hoffner said she believes the festival is a great way for artists to get their art in front of a broader audience.

“A lot of times, you’ll have this work, and if people can’t make it to the shows, they don’t know you’re out there,” Von Hoffner said. “So this is a way to reach a broader audience, and it’s a fun way to work – probably one of the most fun jobs I’ve had.”

Crews were cleaning up the site on Monday, and officials said they plan to reopen Steele Indian School Park for normal operating hours on Thursday, a parks spokesman said.

Stanton described Phoenix as a great live music town.

“It was long past time that we hosted a festival like this in the heart of our city,” he said in the statement. “The bands were incredible, the crowds exceeded expectations and almost nobody drove.”

Phoenix officials had urged participants to take public transportation to ease congestion. And Lyft, the ride-sharing partner of the festival, set up designated pickup and drop-off locations near the park.

The company gave thousands of rides to and from the festival and offered discounts to new and existing users, said Lyft’s Southwest Region General Manager Drena Kusari.

“For an inaugural year with any event, you can expect some growing pains here and there, but overall it was just amazing,” said ASU student Miller.

Cronkite News reporter Nkiruka Omeronye contributed to this article.