PICTURED: Tenille Arts. Photo submitted

by Mike Nelson

Funny how quickly some things — even major concerts — can come together.

Like four months ago, when Cumulus Media regional vice president and KHAY-FM market manager Sommer Frisk and CBF Productions founder and CEO Vincenzo Giammanco were chatting in downtown Ventura about joining forces to resume the KHAY Fest of country music, idled for two years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know what?” Frisk finally said. “Let’s just do it. Ventura County is ready for it.”

Indeed it is, based on strong advance ticket sales for the May 22 event at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and headlined by current country stars Josh Turner, Dylan Scott and Tenille Arts. The concert signals a new chapter in the evolution of CBF’s concert promotion business, which has thrived despite two pandemic-impacted years where live events were all but nonexistent.

Josh Turner. Photo submitted

It began in the summer of 2020 with Concerts in Your Car, which brought headline acts including Third Eye Blind and Snoop Dog to Ventura County for music lovers to enjoy from the safety and comfort of their own vehicles.

“That was a pivot effort, really, for us to figure out how to keep staff employed, in the worst economic time possible for live event companies,” says Giammanco. “And our community embraced it to the point where we produced more live shows than any company in the country. It also put the Surfer’s Point/Fairgrounds venue on the national map and led to us creating shows under the Surfer’s Point Live banner. Now we hope to grow this into becoming a world class venue.”

It also helps, the organizers say, that the venue is close to the ocean, especially in this COVID-affected period where some would-be concert-goers (though not all) still have concerns about gathering amid large crowds.

“One of the benefits in choosing this venue and in partnering is the amount of open space at the Fairgrounds,” says Frisk. “You’ve got air conditioning from Mother Nature and the ocean breeze — and around here, people feel at home when they’re near the beach.”

“Being fully outside and by the water, the coastal breeze blows out the nasty stuff,” adds Giammanco. “During the height of the pandemic, in fact, we had zero outbreaks at our Concerts in Your Car events because we were outside. We are following the current local and state health laws in place, and we’re taking all the right precautions with hand-washing stations available. But, back as close to pre-pandemic as possible . . . there will be plenty of space and sunshine for people to enjoy this concert safely.”

Additionally, CBF — which also produces the Spring and Winter Wine Walks in Ventura, the Boots and Brews and Tacos and Tequila Music Festivals, and other local events — has introduced reserved “cabana” and “day bed” spaces through which, for an extra fee, attendees can enjoy the festival in a bit more privacy (those spaces are sold out). 

“We’re testing it out,” says Giammanco.

KHAY Fest 2022, Sunday, May 22, 1-8 p.m. at Surfer’s Point/Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura.  For tickets and more information, visit www.surferspointlive.com.