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Posted: Wednesday, 06 February 2019 16:46

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SulaFest 2019: Record Crowd for a single Day on Sunday

Feb 06: The 12th edition of annual SulaFest on 2- 3 February saw a total of over 15,000 people and witnessed a record number of over 8,000 people on Sunday, the record number in a day, according to sources, writes Subhash Arora who feels this was thanks to the highly publicised performance by the music composer and rock start singer Shankar Mahadevan whose magic mesmerized the crowd with his ‘My Country, My Music’- songs from different states, accompanied by a popular singer of that state

Sunday, the second day at the 2-day SulaFest on February 2-3 at the Sula Vineyards saw a tsunami of people congregating at Sula Vineyards, most likely to listen to the highly talented musician Shankar Mahadevan. The crowd started swelling in the evening when one could see hordes of people descending to listen to their favourite Bollywood singer, taking SulaFest to newer heights. By the end of the evening, there were over 8,000 people; highest number recorded on any day-to me it looked like there were over 9,000 based on my earlier visits. One has never seen so many people on any day at the earlier fests

As always, there was seemingly no problem or fight due to dope or excessive drinking. No bottles were allowed inside the Fest. The rule applied during earlier events too but somehow it was not strictly followed. But this year, the guards and bouncers followed it rigidly. For the same reason proper wine glasses were not allowed to avoid the problems due to broken glass or in case of unavoidable skirmishes.  But one could see increasing use of e-cigarettes this year-smoking is otherwise strictly prohibited at the venue.

Young girls could move around freely without any fear of misbehaviour or safety problems. Everyone was doing their thing. Age spectrum has noticeably expanded over the years with several older middle class people coming from Nashik, Mumbai and even Delhi. There were also scores of young kids with their parents, apparently from Nashik but perhaps a few from Mumbai as well, enjoying  a family vacation.

Rajeev Samant, Founder and CEO of Sula and a great music buff, had perhaps the busiest Sunday at a SulaFest after hosting an ‘Après  Party’at his farmhouse on Saturday night, next to The Source at Sula Resort where I was staying. He received several importers, investors and a handful of journalists as well in his office, besides being constantly in touch with the event management team and in-charge, Monit Dhavale.

 Music at the Core

Perhaps conceived as a wine festival with music thrown in (at least that’s how it started in 2008), the shift from wine to music has been evident over the years and the biggest attraction and Headliners being the top bands and DJs from the UK and US. The quality of musicians today is at a very high pitch with the likes of Kailash Kher and this year’s super star Shankar Mahadevan grabbing the attention and top honours.

During the last few years, Sula started promoting SulaFest gradually as Gourmet World Music Festival, with wine and other alcohol beverages encompassed in ‘Gourmet’. Not only are the participants increasingly from different parts of the world, making it truly world music, wine is but a part of the festival, as are a few other beverages like Budweiser Beer, Cointreau and Beluga Vodka (Sula imports them) and Jaeggermeister.

Many of those who used to visit the Fest earlier for wine and music whine about it getting jaded   but the record numbers attending, tell a different story. The numbers of restaurants, guest houses and the impromptu ‘Paid Parking’ lots have sprung up on both sides of Sula over the years, some with a regular business that goes beyond Sulafest.  It might have been unfathomable a few years ago, but a friend of mine in the real estate business in Gurgaon had told me last month that five couples were visiting SulaFest this year-and they had made bookings at a new guest house near Sula. I saw them having a great time, listening to music and enjoying drinks from a stand at the back of the amphitheatre. They would probably come back again next year.

Better organised

As the festival gets bigger it is getting better as well, with organization getting tighter and the number of bouncers also getting bigger and better. With a record number of 16,000-17,000 over the two days, there was not a glitch noticed- minor issues perhaps notwithstanding. Even the parking problem of earlier years has been generally resolved, the traffic problem due to the narrow road to Sula notwithstanding.  A local resident working at a senior position in the city hotel rued there was no government support which was accorded to the religious festivals in the city due to mass sentiments. Otherwise, they would have constructed better roads and infrastructural facilities to make the event even more enjoyable for everyone and make it even better.

When I told Rajeev Samant, it was the best SulaFest I had attended during my 7-8 visits and it might be difficult to better it, he smiled and said, ‘if we can continue to offer this experience every year, I would be very happy.’ The best compliment came from the music maestro when Mahadevan said, ‘I was amazed at the energy in the crowd as I waded through to reach the stage and what organisation! I have seen many jazz and music concerts in the world and I can tell you the organisation here has been amazing and really world-class.’

From the humble beginning it made in 2008 with only a few hundred people attending, SulaFest is now a mega event of the year, adding around 16,000-18,000 people to the list of 350,000 that visit Sula for wine tourism in a year. Today, it is an important date in the calendar for those who love music, wine, good food and good life. Those who missed out this year, there is always the next year...or the next! It is held on the first weekend of February. So one can mark it in the calendar and plan ahead for a visit.

For earlier Articles that reference many of the earlier editions, please visit:

SulaFest 2019: 12th edition to Feature Shankar Mahadevan

SulaFest 2018: And the Beat Goes on

Subhash Arora

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