Maná onstage in Miami on Oct. 29, 2016.

Maná onstage in Miami on Oct. 29, 2016.

Courtesy of Maná

At first blush it seems a crazy idea. A multi-day, multi-artist Latin festival in the middle of Wisconsin? 
Now, organizers have announced the lineup and it’s clear they’re dead serious. 

Maná, Daddy Yankee, Nicky Jam, Los Tucanes de Tijuana and Wisin will headline the first Los Dells Festival, taking place Sept. 2 and 3 at the Woodside Ranch in Wisconsin, 10 miles north of tourist destination Wisconsin Dells. 

Others confirmed to perform include Reik, Larry Hernandez, Kinky, Los Dareyes de la Sierra, Sofia Reyes, Quantic and Thomas Augusto. 

Regular and VIP two-day passes will go on sale June 30 at noon, with prices ranging from $145 to $385. It’s a steep price for a Latin marketplace that, in this country at least, is not accustomed to multi-day festivals, much less in a secondary market like Wisconsin. 

“My initial hesitation was, are there enough Latinos in the Midwest?” says Damon Rey, who is promoting Los Dells along with brothers Adam and Grant Mills, who in turn have staged other fests like Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas. 

As it turns out, there aren’t that many in Wisconsin proper -- 6% of the population, according to 2014 Census figures. But there are plenty in neighboring Illinois --17% of the population -- with Chicago, which is a three-hour drive from the Wisconsin Dells, a major Hispanic hub. Promotion will be targeted at those “drive-in” markets, which also include Minneapolis. 

And while there have been very few previous Latin festivals that require lengthy driving and stays, Rey and his partners are banking on the lineup to draw them in. 

“Maná was one of the first artists we approached and they were very interested,” he says. “And that interest and that excitement is what led us to be more excited. When you have the biggest band in the world willing to play your festival the odds are a little better.”

The notion of a Latin festival in the middle of the Midwest came from Damon Zumwalt, founder and CEO of Contemporary Services Corporation. 

Zumwalt, who grew up in San Diego, had been mulling the notion of a Latin fest for years, and finally took it to Rey and the Mills. He suggested the locale, which is a major Midwest destination that draws some 4 million tourists a year. 

“We feel Latin music in the Midwest is underserved,” says Adam Mills. “It’s too obvious if we go to Miami. We know the odds are against us, but anybody who wants to spearhead a concept, has to take that leap. We lead with our artists, which is an exceptional lineup, and with the Wisconsin Dells. We truly are trying to sell the destination.”

Promotion of Los Dells, which is being marketed as an all-ages festival, will have a strong traditional media component (Univision is a media partner) in addition to social and digital. 

The aim is to bring in 15,000 people per day in the first year. 

The notion of a multi-day Latin festival, while uncommon, is not new. In Latin America, there is a culture of multi-day festivals, as there is here for mainstream music. But when it comes to Latin music, such fests have come and gone with few exceptions. They include L Festival, which has been put together by Universal Music Latin in conjunction with CMN for three years in a row in Los Angeles, and Ruido Fest in Chicago, dedicated to rock and alternative music.

Los Dell is taking things out of traditional urban areas, however, much like Rock Fiesta did last year. The one-day Latin rock fest took place in Quarzsite, Arizona. A second edition has yet to be announced. 

“We decided to take this challenge,” says Mills. “And we surrounded ourselves with industry professionals. So we’re excited about the team; we understand the importance of putting together a successful festival. But most of all we’re excited about the concept.”