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Tailgate Fest Creator Melissa Carbone Turns Her Personal Passion Into Event Where the Stages Are Truck-Side

Melissa Carbone, Creator and CEO of Tailgate Fest, turned her passion for tailgating into the annual music event, scheduled for Aug. 17-18 at the 160-acre Leal Ranch in Eastvale, Calif., about 50…

Melissa Carbone, Creator and CEO of Tailgate Fest, turned her passion for tailgating into the annual music event, scheduled for Aug. 17-18 at the 160-acre Leal Ranch in Eastvale, Calif., about 50 miles east of L.A.

“Tailgating was the thing that I loved to do when I wasn’t working,” Carbone tells Billboard. “I got submerged in the tailgating culture for years and I hated throwing everything into my pockets and going into an arena and sitting in an uncomfortable chair and eating warm hot dogs and drinking lukewarm beer when I was just outside tailgating with all my friends with ice cold coolers and barbecuing and playing games. I thought how great would it be if I could stay here and bring the stages truck-side?”

Carbone, along with cofounder partners Alyson Richards and Giancarlo Chersich, staged the first Tailgate Festival in 2018 in the cement parking lot at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. “We moved year two of Tailgate Fest because we wanted to get tailgaters off concrete and onto actual grass. We also filled up all the space at the Forum so knew at this pace we needed some sprawling space in which we could grow. Finding our very own ranch was like a dream come true and the perfect environment for the world we are trying to create.”

Carbone says that producing the first Tailgate Fest in 2018 was very difficult. “Rolling into a marketplace to create a whole new infrastructure that people have never even seen before is an uphill battle. [With] Tailgate Fest, tailgating doesn’t stop when the show starts.”


Carbone explains what has gone into creating her vision for Tailgate Fest. “We’re curating this very specific small town Americana vibe that you can’t get in this part of town,” she says. “It’s hard to find that in these urban areas. So when we go into these environments, it’s about creating the nuances. Like our beautiful stage, and the side-stage viewing platform is a giant swimming pool. You can go up to the bar in the pool, grab a beer and keep your ass in the pool while you’re watching Brantley Gilbert and that to me feels very country.”

The exec adds, “[We are] creating a world with corn-hole championships and having food curated that feels very different than a lot of other festivals. We want to create these big barbecue pits and have clambakes on them and create sing-alongs around a fire with some of our artists coming out and surprising people and have s’mores while you’re singing country songs with one of your favorite artists. So there’s this type of detail as we grow into becoming a giant festival here, hopefully an institution in Southern California.”

Carbone says that half of her of focus is curating the line-up and half is the tailgating aspect. “We choose artists that align really well with that tailgating culture. Brantley Gilbert was an obvious choice for me. And I felt like Lee Brice and Tyler Farr are also good tailgating artists. They both have this country boy vibe that works well with tailgaters, so that Saturday line-up to me is fire. Having Lindsey Ell before Tyler was a no-brainer, because if she’s there and Brantley’s there, they can play their new song together. That first night is about creating this high adrenaline – kicking the event off with this explosive night of energy. And then the second night, I wanted to do more of the romantic, lovebird side of tailgating. Brett Eldredge has been one of my favorites for a long time and he’s been part of the soundtrack of my tailgating life, so the intention behind having him on the second night is to change the vibe a little bit, but still super-serve what tailgaters love, and then add some legends to the mix, like Clint Black.”

The full lineup for Saturday is: Brantley Gilbert, Lee Brice, Tyler Farr, Big Boi, Lindsey Ell and King Calloway. And the Sunday bill is: Brett Eldredge, Clint Black, LoCash, RaeLynn and Hardy. DJs will be spinning during the day and live performances will start around 3pm each day.