X-Fest is taking the year off with hopes of returning to its Modesto roots in 2018.
Event promoter Chris Ricci said the annual outdoor music festival featuring more than 20 stages and 100 bands will not be held this summer. But next year he plans to bring the event back to downtown Modesto. He moved it to the San Joaquin Fairgrounds in Stockton last summer after a prolonged battle with Modesto officials.
“The event was fine in Stockton, but it felt like any other festival. It’s not what X-Fest is, which is a downtown event people get excited about,” Ricci said. “The vibe was different. It didn’t have the excitement and the merchants open and the feeling of community.”
The Xclamation Festival, X-Fest for short, was born in 2000 and held in downtown Modesto for 16 years. The multi-stage, multi-genre, multi-block event has attracted headliners as eclectic as hip-hop stars Sir Mix-A-Lot, DMX and E-40; rock acts Simple Plan, Dead Kennedys and Foghat; and local heroes the Moonshine Bandits, Grandaddy and Flying Blind.
In 2016 Ricci and city of Modesto officials entered into tense negotiations about the future of the 21-and-over outdoor event. Dueling petitions from Ricci’s backers supporting the event and from business owners asking the event be moved were circulated. While Ricci prevailed and was granted a permit by the City Council, it was contingent on several enhanced safety caveats.
Ricci said those changes made holding the event downtown too expensive, so he moved the festival to Stockton. But the shift in venue — from a street party to an open fairgrounds — proved less popular. In Modesto the event routinely drew more than 15,000 revelers for the evening of listening to live music, drinking and dancing. The year before its move it brought in 17,000 people. But the Stockton X-Fest drew between 8,000 to 12,000, according to varying estimates from Stockton Police and Ricci.
In January Ricci made the decision to bring X-Fest back to Modesto, but by March he said negotiations with the city had broken down. So he decided to try again next year. Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said he had not been contacted by Ricci about the festival returning this year or next. City of Modesto spokeswoman Amy Vickery said representatives for Ricci had reached out to some city officials this year.
The decision also coincides with the departure of former City Manager Jim Holgersson. Ricci said he hopes to start negotiations fresh with whoever is selected to replace Holgersson. Carroll said Holgersson’s role in negotiating the event’s permit the last few years was “not huge,” and mainly concerned with making sure the guidelines were followed and deadlines met.
While safety concerns were at the forefront of the negotiations between Ricci and city officials, the event has had few major incidents over its 17-year history. Since its inception, the festival has seen between 10 to 40 arrests per year, most for alcohol-related offenses. Still, there have been instances of vandalism, including broken shop windows, and in 2014 an attempted rape was reported when a female security guard was accosted by a man as she left the event and headed to her car.
Each year, the festival has paid for the staffing for the Modesto Police Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Modesto Fire Department personnel who work the event, as well as private security officers. Last year, the city required Ricci also pay a $5,000 administrative fee and increase his general liability insurance from $1 million to $5 million. It also moved all the law enforcement officers outside the festival grounds while increasing the number of private security to patrol inside the event by 100.
Carroll said if the event were to reapply for a permit in 2018, he would push for the same safety requirements including keeping law enforcement officers outside of the grounds and using private security inside exclusively.
“My feelings haven’t really changed. As long as it’s a safe event I am fine with it,” Carroll said.
Ricci said he did not know whether he would still bring the event back to downtown Modesto if the same enhancements were required in 2018. But he said he is committed to turning the event into a “win-win” for himself, the city and area businesses while maintaining its bacchanalia feel.
“I want to try to make this a positive for the community. I expect to make adjustments to the event like I’ve always made adjustments to the event every year,” Ricci said. “But if X-Fest is going to happen it’s going to stay X-Fest. We’re not going to change it to a tea party.”