CINCINNATI – Now in its third year of operation under PromoWest, the Bunbury Music Festival has found its stride.
The festival kicked off Friday at Yeatman’s Cove and Sawyer Point, an hour earlier than in past years and with a fourth stage added to the lineup. Organizers also returned to a paper ticket and cash system after trying a paperless, cashless radio frequency identification wristband last year -- an attempt to alleviate long lines and ATM issues seen in 2015.
This year, ATMs continued to dispense cash, and vendors that accepted credit cards did so without any glitches as crowds grew throughout the festival’s first day. Uploading photos and video to social media did slow down at times, but that should be expected for any well-attended outdoor festival. This is especially true when the Cincinnati Reds are playing right next door at the same time.
Overall, PromoWest’s repeated attempts to make the best music festival showed when acts such as Mike Stud, the Shins, G-Eazy and Wiz Khalifa took the stage throughout Friday.
With that upfront, here's what worked, what didn't and what really wowed during day one.
Early start time: PromoWest opened the gates to the music festival at noon this year, versus 1 p.m. last year. The earlier time gave people a full hour-and-a-half to get into Yeatman’s Cove and Sawyer point before the first act, Cincinnati’s Flying Underground at 1:30 p.m. Wait times to get into the park were light, compared to the more than hour-long wait times people experienced in 2015.
The Southwest Sound Stage: This fourth smaller stage is a new addition, where local acoustic bands perform throughout each day of the festival. The stage is located in a small grove of trees between the Braxton Craft Beer Village near the Purple People Bridge and the Sawyer Point Stage near the I-71 bridge. Decked out with blue inflatable seats, it was definitely the best place to chill at Bunbury.
The food: The food vendor options continue to shine. Mazunte served up delicious tacos; Che has great empanadas; the Chicken Mac truck’s Sriracha and honey mac is delicious; and of course, Island Noodles is there as well. Luckily, a day walking from one stage to another burns a lot of calories, so people can keep eating all of that food.
The Bad (sort of)
The craft beer village: While the expanded offerings Braxton Brewing Co. brought this year as the primary sponsor of the craft beer village is an improvement, more local brews would be welcomed. The only other local brewery in the village is Blank Slate, which has two of its beers on tap. Cincinnati is a craft beer town, and there are so many other great brews that should be offered at the Queen City’s biggest outdoor music festival.
The cell service: Again, this may be an unavoidable problem, but noticeable cellphone slowdowns started early and continued intermittently throughout the day. It would be great if someone could find a way to boost coverage strength during Bunbury and other riverfront events.
Bunbury continues noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 1-11 p.m. Sunday.
Hopefully everything continues to run as smoothly as it did on Friday. If so, PromoWest may have moved past the minor woes it experienced with point-of-sale and entry issues of the past two years.