Bellwether Music Fest: Boutique event strives for bucket list status in Warren County

Bellwether Music Festival is still new but there are already some significant updates for the second annual event, returning to Renaissance Park in Waynesville Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 8 through 10.

“Last year, we were outside of the grounds of the Renaissance Festival and this year we’re actually inside so we’re embracing the setting,” organizer Bill Donabedian said. “We want Bellwether to be an experience like no other so there are a lot of things happening throughout the day.”

New this year is full-contact, rock ’n’ roll jousting and movie screenings in the campers’ village at 11 p.m. each night. Other activities include a late-night silent disco, a dark carnival maze, morning yoga and stand-up comedy.

“We’re never going to go out and book the Foo Fighters or something like that,” said Donabedian, founder of Cincinnati festivals Bunbury and Midpoint. “It just doesn’t make sense so we have to create an atmosphere where this becomes a bucket list festival because it’s different and fun and has a great lineup.”

First and foremost, Bellwether is about the music. There are headliners like Beach House, Cake, Cold War Kids and Guided By Voices, with a solid undercard with Twin Shadow, Real Estate, Pinback, Black Moth Super Rainbow and others.

For Bellwether, Donabedian partnered with Patrick Ryan, who books Daryl’s House in Pawling, N.Y.

“It’s a boutique festival,” Donabedian said. “It’s well-curated. Patrick really did a fantastic job this year of painting that great picture that tells a story with two amazing days of music. If you’re a true music geek, you’re really going to get into this event.

Attendance for 2018 was about 6,000 people per day. Donabedian expects a larger turnout this year.

“We would’ve done a little better if we hadn’t had challenging weather on Friday,” he said. “That impacted a lot of things. We expect our attendance to be a little better this year. We’re ahead of where ticket sales were last year so it’ll be a comfortable crowd.”

Also new for 2019, is the free pre-party on Thursday.

“If you’re coming to the festival on Friday and Saturday, or if you just live in the Waynesville area, you should come on over,” Donabedian said. “We’ve got stuff going all night with bands and then a comedy show at 10 o’clock. After that, we’ve got Year of the Buffalo doing a nice acoustic set from 11:30 until 1 in the morning. If you want to hang out with us and have some fun before the festival starts, please join us.”


What: Second annual Bellwether Music Festival with Beach House, Cake, Cold War Kids, Guided By Voices and others

Where: Renaissance Park, 10542 E. Ohio 73, Waynesville

When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 9 and 10. Gates open at noon. Music starts at 2 p.m.

Cost: $59 per day general admission, $99 for two-day general admission pass. VIP, camping, glamping and RV packages are available

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