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Serbia’s EXIT Makes History As Europe’s First Major Festival Since Pandemic Began

Celebrating its 20-year anniversary in 2021, the festival expects to host 40,000 attendees per day at the Petrovaradin Fortress in Nova Sad, in the northern part of the country and about an hour from…

Serbia’s EXIT Festival kicks off it’s four-day dance music event today (July 8), improbably becoming the first major music festival to take place in Europe since the coronavirus pandemic took hold early last year.

Celebrating its 20-year anniversary in 2021, the festival expects to host 40,000 attendees per day at the Petrovaradin Fortress in Nova Sad, in the northern part of the country and about an hour from the capital city of Belgrade. The event extends through Sunday.

After a series of false starts for music festivals throughout Europe — as organizers deal with constantly shifting government regulations and safety protocols — EXIT is moving forward with an approved safety plan that requires all attendees to be vaccinated, to have antibodies or to test negative for COVID-19 via PCR or rapid antigen testing.

Festival organizers says that attendees from 70 countries are expected to attend EXIT 2021. According to Reuters, Serbia has had nine new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people reported in the last seven days. Travelers entering Serbia from the U.S. must present a negative a negative PCR test not older than 48 hours.

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The event’s lineup includes roughly 300 DJs and producers including Paul Kalkbrenner, David Guetta, DJ Snake, Tyga, Charlotte de Witte,  Solomon, Amelie Lens, Maceo Plex, Robin Schulz, Asaf Avidan, Honey Dijon, Hot Since 82, Medusa, Paul van Dyk, Artbat and more. Artists will perform on more than 20 stages and areas throughout the site.

EXIT begins less than a month after the cancellation of Tomorrowland 2021, which had been scheduled to take place over two weekends — Aug. 27-29 and Sept. 3-5 — in Boom, Belgium. The cancellation was a surprise, and a significant blow, to Tomorrowland organizers, who had anticipated hosting approximately 75,000 people per day at the festival. The event was cancelled after local government officials cited concerns about rising cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the limitations of enacting health and safety protocols for such a massive crowd.

Meanwhile, Ibiza has seen a glimmer of hope after being put on the U.K.’s “green list” of travel destinations, meaning that UK citizens are able to travel to the island. Still, it’s not entirely business as usual on the famed party island. Last week, the Spanish government announced that travelers arriving in the Balearic Islands — including popular tourist spots Mallorca and Ibiza — will have to present a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of vaccination.

Ibiza’s major clubs have yet to say whether or when they will be allowed to reopen. A new cluster of virus cases in Mallorca last month led health officials there to quarantine some 2,000 people in Madrid following parties by Spanish students celebrating the end of their school year.

The U.K., for its part, says it will reopen for outdoor festivals and full-capacity live shows starting on July 19, after pushing back that timetable a month due to a spike in virus infections tied to the Delta variant. That will be in time for Creamfields to still take place, which is currently scheduled for Aug. 26-29.

EXIT Festival
Festival goers collect their wristbands for the EXIT Festival after providing proof of a negative Covid antigen test at the Novi Sad Fair on July 8, 2021 in Novi Sad, Serbia. Vladimir Zivojinovic/Getty Images

EXIT Festival 2021’s status as the first major music festival to happen in Europe since the pandemic began adds to the event’s already rich history. EXIT was founded in 2000 as a student movement fighting for democracy and freedom in Serbia and the Balkans, which suffered through a series of bloody wars between 1991 and 2001, which led to the breakup of the Yugoslav state. After the Yugoslavian general election in 2000, EXIT moved in 2001 to the 240-year-old Petrovaradin Fortress, which is settled on the banks on the Danube River.

While EXIT had initially intended to celebrate its 20-year anniversary in 2020, organizers canceled the event amidst rising COVID-19 infections in Serbia and other parts of the world. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić attempted to save the 2020 festival, citing its historic importance to the Balkans region and impact on the country’s tourism, but later relented.

EXIT is livestreaming sets through Sunday from its YouTube and Facebook pages. The all-night event happens from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. CET.