LAST SUMMER, Oregon’s hottest beach party happened hundreds of miles from the ocean. What the Festival (WTF for short) flooded the White River Valley with 2,000 merry revelers, 60 DJs and musical acts, and a skating rink–size wading pool.
“To the more serious festivals in the Northwest, a beach party might seem strange,” says Glen Boyd, who started the fest last year with his wife, Tiffany, as a creative outlet after selling his company, Web-trends, in 2001. “For us that makes it fun. We’re not here to hold hands and chant.”
To truly describe What the Festival, though, additional words like “carnival” and “summer camp for adults” seem necessary. The wonderland of experiences included three stages, a hookah lounge, organic food vendors, comedy acts, interactive artwork, and a bucolic forest setting. Like Burning Man—without the inhospitable terrain and 12-hour drive. In fact, WTF was so seductive as a full-sensory, immersive escapade that more than one musical act missed their planes home to ride out the weekend.
Part of the inaugural success was due to the fact that the Boyds and their small team of veteran organizers splurged on musical acts (the frenetic electro-rock of Ghostland Observatory and the tribal electronica of Beats Antique) and amenities (attendees could rent air-conditioned safari tents and RV hookups) to attract a more mature crowd. They had hoped to draw 1,200 at best. Instead, they sold out at 2,000. Attendees gave the weekend high marks for its production values.
Having already outgrown the valley, this year WTF bought Wolf Run Ranch, a beautiful 250-acre stretch abutting Mt Hood National Forest, which will allow it to host 5,000 fest goers. And with a lineup that includes A-Trak, Gramatik, Purity Ring, and many more mostly electronic dance acts, the festival looks well on its way to another blowout weekend: 1,000 tickets sold in the first 24 hours.
“People are bored with what’s offered out there—the concert-focused fests like Sasquatch that are very formulaic and corporate,” Boyd says. “A festival as we see it pulls on art and creates an immersion experience. I think we’re just at the beginning of this getting really big.”
For a chance to win passes to What the Festival, pick up a copy of our June issue
and scan the image of the swimming pool.
See our slide show and recap of last year's festival.