Imagine Music Festival is ready to roll in September

Scenes from the 2019 Imagine Music Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 2020 incarnation was canceled, but the 2021 installment will go on in the new location of Chattahoochee Hills. Courtesy of DV Photo Video
Scenes from the 2019 Imagine Music Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 2020 incarnation was canceled, but the 2021 installment will go on in the new location of Chattahoochee Hills. Courtesy of DV Photo Video

Credit: DV Photo Video

Credit: DV Photo Video

The EDM lineup includes dozens of bands; other Atlanta-area music events cautiously eyeing a fall return.

A year ago, Maddy and Glenn Goodhand oozed excitement.

The creators of the Imagine Music Festival — a major gathering of electronic music artists and their freewheeling fans — anticipated the expansion of their seven-year-old festival from the confines of the now-razed Masquerade Music Park to its most recent incarnation at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And then, the ultimate destination: their newest home of Bouckaert Farm in Chattahoochee Hills.

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In April 2020, the couple, who operate business ventures as Iris Presents, felt cautiously confident that their mega-fest would take place last fall at the expansive new location.

Then, of course, the constant threat of COVID-19 iced those plans. But the Goodhands are ready to hit reset and stage the three-day themed congregation (“An Aquatic Fairytale”) of music, food, wellness and camping Sept. 17-19 at the 8,000-acre farm, which served as the location of the EDM behemoth TomorrowWorld during its run from 2013 to 2015.

The Imagine Music Festival in 2019. The event was postponed for 2020, but will return at a new location in Chattahoochee Hills for 2021.
The Imagine Music Festival in 2019. The event was postponed for 2020 but will return at a new location in Chattahoochee Hills in 2021. Courtesy of DV Photo Video

Credit: DV Photo Video

Credit: DV Photo Video

“It’s a fine line,” Glenn Goodhand said about returning to festival life. “We’re trying to shed light and optimism and hope, while being sensitive to the current environment…Overwhelmingly, even the experts are saying we’re likely to be at a point (with vaccines and case numbers) where we can put a bunch of people outside in early fall. It’s tough, but for the most part, I think everyone wants to start getting out there, and we want to make sure it’s safe to do so.”

The 2021 Imagine Music Festival boasts a lineup that kept fans of the genre buzzing for days on social media. Excision, GRiZ, Illenium, Kaskade (who will perform a second pool party set), Gryffin, Madeon, Fisher + Catch and Release Takeover, Liquid Stranger + Wakaan Takeover are among the dozens of EDM names spotlighted.

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Imagine is also the first established area music festival to announce its return in 2021.

Most of Atlanta’s other major music fests — held on city grounds — are refraining from committing to details because of evolving limits on crowd capacity. Chattahoochee Hills is its own domain, so Imagine doesn’t fall under Atlanta city guidelines. Bouckaert Farm is private property, as well.

Last month, the City of Atlanta announced that outdoor gatherings with fewer than 2,000 people will be allowed after May 15. That means the annual Memorial Day Weekend installment for the Atlanta Jazz Festival — which typically attracts tens of thousands — won’t take place during its usual time frame, but organizers are eyeing a fall production.

The uncertainty about permitted crowd capacity equates to vagueness for Music Midtown — slated for Sept. 18-19 at Piedmont Park — and Shaky Knees Music Festival, which is usually held in May at Central Park, but was bumped to October last year before ultimately being canceled as the coronavirus continued its devastating march.

Uncle Luke performs at the 10th anniversary of One Musicfest at Centennial Park in Atlanta in 2019. The hip-hop and R&B festival plans to return Oct. 9-10 at Centennial Olympic Park, according to founder Jason “J” Carter. Tyson Horne-tyson.horne@ajc.com
Uncle Luke performs at the 10th anniversary of One Musicfest at Centennial Park in Atlanta in 2019. The hip-hop and R&B festival plans to return Oct. 9-10 at Centennial Olympic Park, according to founder Jason “J” Carter. Tyson Horne-tyson.horne@ajc.com

Another fall staple, One Musicfest, renowned for corralling marquee hip-hop, R&B and soul acts, plans to move from its usual September berth to a projected return Oct. 9-10 at Centennial Olympic Park, according to founder Jason “J” Carter.

But while the re-emergence of Imagine Music Festival might rattle those not quite ready to engage with large groups of people — about 30,000-40,000 are expected throughout the weekend — the Goodhands are committed to providing a safe environment.

“We’ll certainly follow all of the public health and safety officials and politicians that tell us what the guidelines will be as we get closer,” Glenn said. “We’ll have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C contingencies to be applied according to what is called for. But we will exceed whatever is required because our number one priority is the safety of our guests. If they say everything can return to normal, we’ll probably still require masks and temperature checks, and with 8,000 acres, it allows for social distancing.”

Still, the Goodhands are pragmatic and don’t want attendees to be lulled into a false sense of security merely because the festival is outside in a spacious environment.

“It’s impossible to say there won’t be any COVID inside Imagine. Nor is it the right messaging. We’re not in a bubble. There are delays in testing. People are asymptomatic,” Glenn said. “We would prefer that you view it that it’s likely there will be some form of COVID inside, and we would love for you to get your vaccine or make sure you’re negative and just wear your mask.”

Added Maddy Goodhand, “What a great incentive for young folks who might have been resistant to get a vaccine — to get it if they want to go to festivals.”

Throngs of people attended the 2019 Imagine Music Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 2020 incarnation was canceled, but the 2021 installment will go on in the new location of Chattahoochee Hills. Courtesy of DV Photo Video
Throngs of people attended the 2019 Imagine Music Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 2020 incarnation was canceled, but the 2021 installment will go on in the new location of Chattahoochee Hills. Courtesy of DV Photo Video

Credit: DV Photo Video

Credit: DV Photo Video

In preparation for the event, numerous improvements have been made to the site — paved roads, increased lighting, rideshare and shuttle bus pick up and drop off areas among them. This year, guests can also purchase a car/RV camping pass to allow sleeping access near vehicles.

Having an extra year to plan, said Maddy, allowed time to further implement ideas.

“We’re going to expand our stages and our footprint a bit and do more than we were going to do in 2020,” she said.

In addition to welcoming back music fans, about 2,000 people — production staff, security, police — will be employed with the return of Imagine.

“Our industry really relies on people like us to give people work,” Maddy said. “This is like a small city that we have to manage.”

Even though the Goodhands are realistic about the constant looming threat of another postponement, they’re choosing to submerge themselves in controlled optimism that 2021 will be the year that their new Imagine vision will be unveiled.

“The whole reason we started this — not just Imagine, but Iris Presents and Believe (Music Hall, outside of downtown Atlanta) — is to give people a little bit of joy,” Glenn said. “Especially now more than ever, I feel people are in need of that fellowship and feeling someone’s hand or giving them a hug. Everyone has had so much pain this past year. Being in Mother Nature a little more with other people, there’s something special there.”

EVENT PREVIEW

Imagine Music Festival

Sept. 17-19. Tickets start at $39 (general admission companion camping pass); other ticket packages include $289 (three-day general admission); $399 (three-day VIP); $149 (car camping pass for two). The Festival is for 18 years old and older only. Bouckaert Farm, 10045 Cedar Grove Road, Fairburn. 323-908-0607, imaginefestival.com.

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