Nostalgia and heavy guitar riffs proved a winning formula for this year’s Picktown Palooza, which organizers say has hit new attendance heights.
By chance, 2022 turned out to be a “rock year,” said Chris Stein, president of the nonprofit Panger Productions, which organizes the Picktown Palooza.
Stein said that due to the schedule, he was unable to secure pop and country music numbers for the event, which ran from July 14-16.
Therefore, after booking the 2022 Sonic Slam Tour – featuring Cinderella’s Tom Keifer Band, LA Guns and Faster Pussycat – as well as Marty Hayes and the Gypsy Kyngs, Stein decided that all three nights would feature the glam rock of the 1980s and 90s.
Apparently, tripling worked.
“Based on preliminary numbers, over the three days we had over 30,000 attendees,” Stein said. “He was tall.
“Our food vendors said they were criticized every three days. Same with our beer garden. Every aspect of the event went up.”
Stein said attendance ranged from 15,000 to 18,000 for the first four events, adding that he believed music was the main reason for the increase.
In addition to the Sonic Slam Tour 2022 performance on July 16, the festival featured Grand Designs: Rush Tribute Project, BulletBoys and Winger on July 14 and RATT’s Artifax, Pettibone and Stephen Pearcy on July 15.
“When we did rock, country and pop, our biggest night was always rock,” Stein said. “The Sonic Slam Tour was extremely popular initially, and when you add in free parking and $5 to enter, we got what we got.”
Stein said the event continued to draw people from surrounding states, and he said he spoke with attendees from Illinois, New York and Tennessee, among other states.
“The furthest distance anyone told me was coming was from Wyoming,” he said. “I asked if they had any family here and they said… they were coming for the entertainment and expenses.
“It was crazy, crazy awesome, really.”
A number of people who attended the festival on July 14 said the music drew them in, including Mark McCain of Columbus, who was a first-time visitor.
“I saw there was a Rush cover band,” McCain said. “I’m a huge Rush fan. I’ve seen them 21 times over the years, and I’ve never seen a Rush cover band.”
Pickerington’s Glenn and Karen Peppers were also newbies eager to see Grand Designs: Rush Tribute Project.
Before the show, however, they spent time watching their 3-year-old grandson, Luke Peppers, enjoy rides like a ride with motorcycles and dune buggies.
“We wanted to give him some exposure to all these rides,” said Glenn Peppers. “He loves motorcycles and he also loves cars.
“We’ll have dinner here and listen to the band (tribute to Rush). We’ll probably watch from afar.”
A representative of the younger generation, Zion Breaston, 13, of Pickerington, said he was first drawn to the Palooza mainly to get together with friends.
“I heard all my friends were leaving,” Breaston said. “I’ll probably go on rides and eat food and just, like, relax and see everyone that comes.”
When asked what food he was most looking forward to trying, Breaston replied, “Pizza.”
In addition to music, food and rides, Stein believes organizers have found prime locations for everything from location to accommodations.
After being held in Olde Pickerington Village from 2017 to 2019 and canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the festival moved to Pickerington High School Central last year.
This year, organizers opened a second parking lot at Central, and Stein said the site has served the Palooza well largely because it provides sidewalks and a relatively short vehicle ride to the festivities.
Stein said a vendor that only sold soft drinks was added so attendees didn’t have to wait in lines at food vendors to get a soda or water.
He also said the number of portable toilets available had more than doubled from previous years.
City officials expressed satisfaction with the success and management of the festival.
“With the exception of a little rain on Friday night, the weather was fantastic, the logistics were well planned and coordinated, and several thousand people were in attendance,” City Manager Greg Butcher said. “We are pleased to help with the event, along with the Pickerington School District and other agencies and organizations.
“The event is an opportunity for residents to experience a well-planned, clean and organized community festival/event sponsored by a non-profit organization that gives back to the community. It brings visitors to the city of Pickerington to discover and shines a light on our city.”
Additionally, Pickerington Police officials said there were no significant safety concerns.
“There has only been one incident involving two minors that involved an altercation between them and social media posts,” Chief Tod Cheney said. “The incident was the only one of the three days and led to charges against the minors.
“Overall, the crowd behaved very well throughout the event.”