Brand New Bellwether Music Festival Is Ohio’s “Mini Bonnaroo”


As the end of summer approaches, so does the end of peak music festival season. Over the past few months, social media has been flooded with pictures of flower crowns at Coachella, campsites at Bonnaroo, and food trucks at Cincinnati’s own Bunbury. This year, however, Ohio’s claim to the music festival scene is expanding. Dubbed a “mini Bonnaroo,” Bellwether Music Festival joins these high-profile names for the first time in Waynesville, Ohio from August 10 through 11. For two days, music fanatics will set up camp at the Ohio Renaissance Festival Grounds, enjoying bands like MGMT, The Flaming Lips, and Local Natives. Local band This Pine Box, also joins the lineup for Bellwether’s after party in the camper’s village.

Photograph courtesy Taya Ovod/Shutterstock

When the Renaissance Festival owners reached out to Bill Donabedian, founder of Bunbury and MidPoint Music Festival, Donabedian says he was amazed at how much land the festival actually owned. Not only that, but the land was centrally located between Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus–the top three cities Bellwether plans on drawing campers from.

Donabedian acknowledges the difficulty of starting a new music festival, but hasn’t let that discourage his efforts to bring a new experience to Ohio. He even embraces the fact that Bellwether has already been compared to Bonnaroo and Firefly Music Festival. “What happens with festivals is that a culture eventually develops,” he says. “[Bellwether] will be what the campers want to make of this.”

Bellwether does have its advantages over the larger festivals, though. According to Donabedian, the idea of having such famous bands playing a festival in “the middle of nowhere Ohio” is unique in itself. The festival also only features two stages with a 10 to 15 minute break between each artist, allowing campers to enjoy every band without any overlaps in the lineup.

If sleeping in a tent sounds less than appealing to you, a variety of alternatives are offered. From RV camping to glamping to the option to purchase a “freshen up” pass (access to showers, restrooms, and a complimentary towel), campers are able to make the Bellwether experience as comfortable as they’d like. Donabedian adds that the camping aspect can be dropped altogether for patrons who simply want to commute from the city just for the festival.

Although this will be Bellwether’s debut to the music festival industry, it is not to be underestimated. Donabedian expects about 10,000 people a day and has found that the three largest out-of-state cities the festival is drawing from are Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The team Donabedian has put together to organize the festival, he says, have been with him since the start of MidPoint Music Festival and have extensive experience in the industry. He is confident that the team can pull off an extraordinary festival, despite it not having large name recognition.

Bellwether Music Festival will run from August 10-11. Tickets can be purchased online at

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