For the past 12 years Wespac Construction Inc. has been organizing the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in central Arizona and the number of people, along with the charitable donations, have been rising ever since the first band took the stage.
The festival draws between 16,000 and 18,000 people over the three day period, has raised over $1 million in the past 12 years for local charities and has drawn some of the biggest names in music all while being a self sufficient enterprise.
Nate Largay, son of the company’s president, John Largay, and communications director for Wespac Construction, said the company decided to put on the festival as a thank you to the employees and a way to give back to the community.
“My dad grew up a fan of the Grateful Dead and fell in love with that scene and culture,” Largay says. “We wanted to find a place that had a campground and would have some sort of that culture.”
The first festival was held in 2004 and lasted two days until the move to downtown Phoenix in 2013. Westworld in Scottsdale was the location of the event from 2004 to 2009 and then John Largay bought a former chain restaurant called the Compound Grill in North Scottsdale where the festival was held from 2010 to 2012.
“The thing that was really nice about it (being at the Compound Grill) was they had unlimited food and unlimited bar and it really worked out the years that it was there,” Largay says.
The McDowell Mountain Music Festival is a company affair at it’s core with members such as, Largay, his mom, Cathy, an accountant and some other marketing people, pitching in as the time draws near for planning to begin on the next years event.
“When it gets to two months in, it gains more energy and more people volunteer,” Largay says.
By the time the festival gets underway, it is an “all-hands on deck sort of operation,” he says.
Wespac Construction Inc. does not pay the festival anything, Largay says. There is some seed money put into the project at some point in time, but no actual dollars each year. The people are still being paid by the company while they are working on the festival.
“It has really functioned as a self-sufficient enterprise,” Largay says. “But without Wespac, it wouldn’t happen.”
About 150 volunteers work the festival with most of them being from Wespac or associated with the company, and others are from the community who want to work the festival.
Marc Roberts, LEED AP project manager, said the festival is constantly evolving in quite a few ways.
“This actually started as a giant work project for the company,” he says. “Consider it the largest team building exercise ever conceived. Many years later it has just become a part of what we do.”
Evolving and getting more efficient each year is one of the goals of those working on the festival, Roberts says.
“One of my favorite evolutions is the goal of zero waste,” he says. “Each year Wespac comes up with more and more creative ways to recycle and eliminate the waste associated with large events.”
At this year’s festival one of the newest enhancements has been a water filtration system that started last year, but needed some time to perfect.
“Personally I think it is amazing that we offer free fill up water bottles,” Roberts says. “At an arena a water bottle would be $10 and it would get bought, used and thrown away. At MMMF, we do not want you to waste your money on water nor throw away your bottle. Bring the bottle, drink to your fill and then bring those bottles home. Use a beer bottle if you like, but recycle that after use.”
Roberts says he would like to see the festival gain even more traction as the years go by and begin to draw more bands with the same mindset of wanting to help the planet and play music for a charity.
“That is already where we are going, bigger and better,” he says. “We get more efficient every year, less wasteful and more popular.”