Format festival arrives this weekend with the goal of connecting NWA to the world (and vice versa)

Format festival site, Sugar Creek Airstrip, Bentonville, Arkansas. (Zak Heald)

The first thing attendees of the first-ever Format festival will see is the entrance gate, of course.

It’s a piece of custom art being built to give festival guests a taste of the installations inside, and its design is credited to local artist Athen Brandon.

Once attendees enter the festival grounds, they’ll experience the festival’s promised trifecta of music, visual art and technology. And throughout the festival, creators, food vendors, musicians and visual artists from our region will contribute to the experience, said Lizzie Edelman, one of the festival’s co-creators.

“We want to create a festival for Northwest Arkansas. We also want to shine a light on Bentonville, and we want [guests from out of town] to see what is happening there,” Edelman said.

Format festival takes place Friday through Sunday (Sept. 23-25) on an airstrip northeast of Bentonville that doubles as the home of a local aviation club. It is being put together by Edelman’s company, Triadic, in partnership with C3 Presents, which is responsible for events such as Lollapalooza, Voodoo Music + Arts Experience and Austin City Limits.

But Edelman described Format as a more intimate experience than those C3 mega-festivals, which can approach 100,000 attendees.


What is it? A new festival promising to combine music, art and technology.
Who is there? Musical artists such as Phoenix, Rufus Du Sol and Herbie Hancock will join visual artists such as Doug Aitken, Nick Cave and Marinella Senatore. A full lineup can be found on the festival’s website.
Where is it? On land just outside of Bentonville. There is no vehicle access to the festival, but shuttles will take festival-goers between the David Glass Technology Center (805 Moberly Lane) and the festival grounds.

Festival details

When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Price Coffee Road near Bentonville
Cost: Student passes starting at $75 daily or $200 for a weekend pass (plus fees); general admission passes start at $125 daily or $300 for a weekend pass (plus fees)
Tickets and info:

“We always wanted this festival to be smaller,” she said, noting that the first year will likely see 8,000-10,000 attendees. “And we’ll steadily grow from there.”

According to festival organizers’ data, about 70% of festival attendees are coming from within a two- to four-hour drive of Bentonville. Several local sites were considered for the festival, but the airstrip on Price Coffee Road was picked because of its beauty, Edelman said.

“It’s alongside a forest, but there’s also open space. You’re 7 minutes from downtown, but you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” Edelman said. “It’s exceptionally beautiful.”

The site has been transformed in anticipation of the festival. The interior music stages are also art installations, and as possible they’ve been built using local contractors – and using local engineers to solve the logistical challenges of constructing a music festival in a field.

Edelman stressed that local was used whenever possible – from the food vendors to the dancers who will join Chicago-based artist Nick Cave onstage to the cycling community, who can ride their bike to the festival gates and have it valet parked for them. Additionally, nine of the festival’s musicians have direct ties to the area, and the onsite marketplace will highlight Arkansas-based makers.

“We wanted to build this festival in a way that supports what’s already happening in the area,” Edelman said.

The festival gates open at noon Friday, and the first musical guest scheduled to perform is Honey Collective, formerly of Arkansas but now based in Brooklyn, New York. That show begins at noon.