SweetWater 420 Fest will be at the brewery itself this year instead of Centennial Olympic Park

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The festival will be significantly smaller than it used to be.

SweetWater 420 Fest, which in recent years has hosted big-name acts such as Kid Rock, Widespread Panic and Snoop Dogg at Centennial Olympic Park, is shrinking this year.

Instead of using Centennial Olympic Park over three days, the organizers of the fest are holding a two-day festival in April on its own Sweetwater Brewery property, a significantly smaller footprint with lesser-known acts as headliners.

The move may be tied to ongoing legal fallout regarding a permissive gun expansion that was signed into law in 2014, but organizers declined to be interviewed

Instead, they released this statement: “We’re excited and proud to announce this year’s SweetWater 420 Fest lineup, which will be hosted at SweetWater’s flagship brewery in Atlanta. Several factors played into this decision, the most important being the safety of our festival goers. Hosting SweetWater 420 Fest at our brewery brings us back to our roots and is the best way to ensure the music never stops.”



In 2014, the state legislature passed a law that allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in public parks, but it was unclear if festivals with short-term permits like SweetWater 420 Fest could prohibit guns. Then a 2019 Georgia Supreme Court ruling, which an appellate court upheld in 2022, made it more difficult for private groups to restrict guns from short-term events held on public land.

This led Live Nation officials to cancel its massive annual music festival just weeks before it was supposed to happen last September at Piedmont Park, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the decision who spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Live Nation itself declined to comment at the time and Peter Conlon, who runs Live Nation Atlanta, said last month that no decision has been made yet on the future of Music Midtown for 2023.

Doug Shipman, Atlanta City Council chairman, released a statement after the news came out: “This festival attracts more than 30,000 people over several days. Reducing the size of the venue and the number of days of the festival is a huge economic loss for our city. We can secure stadiums and private venues and we should do the same for music festivals on public grounds when ticketed. We have an opportunity and obligation to make Georgia the number one place for tourism and music. I am hopeful we can find a solution to allow festivals to safely occur on public property with our state leadership and I will continue to work with Mayor Dickens and the City Council to explore local solutions that may restore our ability to be a music destination.”

The woman who created and ran the fest for more than 15 years, Jennifer Bensch, is no longer involved. She did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The festival began in 2005 with a few hundred people in Oakhurst. It moved to the Masquerade, then Candler Park for several years, then Centennial Olympic Park in 2014, drawing thousands of fans. Last year’s festival featured major headlining acts Widespread Panic, the Avett Brothers and Jason Isbell over three days.

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

SweetWater 420′s headliners for April 22 and 23 are far more modest ad include Shakey Graves, an Americana musician from Austin, Texas, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, a funk-jam band from Baltimore.

This year, the logistics of the festival were handed over to the brewery itself.

With SweetWater 420 Fest now on private property, it can and will prohibit firearms during the festival.

“SweetWater 420 Fest started as a homegrown festival to celebrate Mother Earth in an intimate space and was inspired by the motto, ‘We’re here for a good time, she’s here for a long time,’ “ said Anna Krakovski Ferro, SweetWater’s director of marketing in a press release. “This year’s party will have similar vibes to those early editions with a give-back component to our Georgia Waterkeeper groups, a celebration of local artists, and a much more intimate gathering that goes back to the root of who we are.”

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Tickets at sweetwaterfest.com are $70 for one-day general admission and $130 for two-day general admission and $130 for single-day VIP and $240 for two-day VIP.

Christopher Hong, the publicist for the fest, declined to say what the capacity of the festival will be. SweetWater Brewery, at 195 Ottley Drive, will erect an indoor stage where the warehouse is located and an outdoor stage in the parking lot. But unlike previous park locations, this one will feature almost no grass, largely cement and asphalt.

The brewery, which includes a restaurant and bar, opened in 1997 and over the years has added event space, offices, a bottling line, a packaging hall and a tank farm. It is by far the largest craft brewery in the state of Georgia and ranks 10th in the nation, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. In 2020, SweetWater was purchased by Aphria, a Canada-based cannabis company, which merged in 2021 with Tilray, an American pharmaceutical, cannabis-lifestyle and consumer packaged goods company.

Two other major music festivals are still scheduled to happen: Shaky Knees in May and Re:Set in June, both at Central Park, a public park in Atlanta.

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