What does it take to run Pilgrimage Festival?

What does it take to run Pilgrimage Festival?


It takes more than 1,000 people, hundreds of port-a-potties and almost a year of planning to pull off Pilgrimage Festival.

Crews worked through the rain on Friday to erect tents, stages and fences for Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival, which will take place this weekend at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm.

On Saturday and Sunday there will likely be about 1,500 people working at the event. Only about 200 of those people will be working for the company producing Pilgrimage.

The rest will be bartenders, tent erectors, security guards, parking attendants and food vendors.

Director of Operations Sharif Zawaideh said planning for the event starts about a year ahead of time.

“It’s year round. From the artist booking side of things, that all starts happening a year out. Permitting happens a year out,” he said. “I start talking to my vendors and building the site map in January.” 

He starts by creating a map of how the festival looked last year. Then he looks at feedback from festival attendees and staff members to see how to improve the layout.

For most events, planning should get easier each year because organizers have already learned from their previous experiences. Zawaideh said Pilgrimage has grown so fast that it’s been harder to organize.

“As an operations manager your first two years of the festival you feel honestly grossly underpaid. You’re putting in a lot more work,” he said. “However, in the case of Pilgrimage because we experienced such rapid growth … year three was my hardest year working on it, just because it doubled in size.”

Zawaideh expects about 25,000 people to attend this year, similar to the number of participants from last year. That means he could rely on some of last year’s work.

This year, he said there will be more water spigots, an improved traffic plan, more food and more bars. 

Pilgrimage isn’t the only festival that Zawaideh’s company Global Operations and Logistics works with. His company has also worked at Bonaroo, Stagecoach and Coachella.

“I came straight from burning man to this with really no time off. I went from Outsidelands straight to Burngin Man,” he said.

After Pilgrimage, he’s taking a short break. He plans to take his dad to see the Seattle Seahawks play the Oakland Raiders in London.

Then it’s back to the drawing board for next year.

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