Why Wellington Amphitheater’s popularity is booming at all-time high

Updated Dec 19, 2017
Music fans fill the lawn at the Wellington Amphitheater to listen to “Viva” perform classic rock songs on July 8. Tribute bands are a cornerstone of the venue’s entertainment schedule. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Few spots in Wellington are as well-known and well-loved as the village’s amphitheater.

The 3,200-square-foot, seven-year-old facility features multiple events per week, from Wellington-hosted activities like the weekly Food Truck Invasion to the recent Craft, Draft and Bites event.

Now the village has released a schedule for early 2018 that includes dozens of family-friendly events, with free tribute band concerts and movies alongside the upcoming Bacon and Bourbon Fest in March.

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The amphitheater has become a “tribute music festival destination,” said Joe Piconcelli, cultural programs and facilities manager for Wellington. The venue has grown into “the home of tribute music,” he added, with about 160 tribute bands playing the amphitheater the past few years.

There are about 100 events a year at the amphitheater, or one every three days, Piconcelli said.

“It seems like a lot but we have it down pat,” he said.

What makes the tribute performances such a big draw? Piconcelli says it’s the iconic music being played by the bands. For the concerts, people of all ages spread out across the amphitheater’s lawn, sitting on blankets and camping chairs and chowing down on food from the Food Truck Invasion that often accompanies the concerts.

It’s the food trucks’ presence that allows the village to offset the cost of the amphitheater’s $130,000-a-year entertainment budget, Piconcelli said — allowing Wellington to continue to offer its signature free events.

“Times were tough six or seven years ago,” Piconcelli said, referring to when the amphitheater opened in 2010. “Wellington made the commitment that they wanted to do a free venue so people didn’t have to go out and spend money. … And we’ve been able to continue that.”

But it isn’t all about the music. Foodie festivals may have found a home at the amphitheater.

The Bacon and Bourbon Fest was wooed to Wellington after its former home of Delray Beach changed its special events policy to require organizers to cover the full cost of city services instead of the 40 percent previously required, said Nancy Stewart-Franczak of Festival Management Group, which organizes the Bacon and Bourbon Fest, Garlic Fest, Delray Affair and Craft Cocktails events.

When Festival Management announced it would move Bacon and Bourbon along with its signature event, Garlic Fest, eight cities and the county reached out to invite the organization to move to their areas. Palm Beach County’s offer of John Prince Park for Garlic Fest was accepted, along with Wellington’s pitch to use the amphitheater for Bacon and Bourbon.

“They don’t have anything of this magnitude there,” Stewart-Franczak said of Wellington. “I think they’re looking to activate the property that they have.”

The village has welcomed the Bacon and Bourbon Fest “with open arms,” she added. And because Wellington is partnering with Festival Management to put on the event, admission is free for the first time, with separate tickets sold for specialized pairing sessions.

Other festivals coming up:

For the full schedule, go to www.wellingtonfl.gov/amphitheater.