All IN Music & Arts Festival Debuts At State Fairgrounds

An illustration of an All IN Music & Arts Festival at the Indiana State Fairgrounds

ON JULY 2, 1988, concert promoters Dave Lucas and Steve Sybesma landed one of their biggest shows to date when they brought John Mellencamp to the infield of the Indiana State Fairgrounds for 50,000 screaming fans. Thirty-four years later, the former Sunshine Promotions partners are looking to do something huge at the Fairgrounds again with a new, multiday music festival in the city where they both got their start.

Slated to take place September 3–4, the inaugural All IN Music & Arts Festival features a lineup of both old and new acts, pairing rock ‘n’ roll legends like Hall & Oates and John Fogerty with more contemporary stars like Cage the Elephant. Taking place across three stages, including the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand and the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the shows were put together by Lucas and Sybesma (best known for founding Deer Creek Music Center), with the help of Paul Peck (a cofounder of Bonnaroo) and Kevin Browning (co-manager of the band Umphrey’s McGee).

Peck and Sybesma first began thinking about starting a new festival in 2017. After considering locations all over the eastern United States, they decided on the Indiana State Fairgrounds as the perfect place to birth something new.

“There’s no site like this,” Peck says. “There’s easy parking. They have physical bathrooms—no porta potties. One of our stages is the historic coliseum. We even have onsite tent and RV camping, which is unusual for a city festival.”

With years of experience working in tandem on festivals, the two say they complement each other nicely. “He has the connections to the younger artists and managers, and I have some that he doesn’t have because of my long history,” Sybesma says. “We just work together really well.”

In booking the first All IN lineup, the organizers say they sought out artists with timeless tunes as opposed to seeking particular genres or the hottest new act. “One of the curating guideposts that Steve and I identified early on was bands with great songs,” Peck says. “Believe it or not, that sometimes gets lost when music festivals are produced. We wanted this festival to be focused on amazing songs.”

In the first year, the All IN organizers hope to draw about 17,000 attendees. Looking ahead, they’re dedicated to letting the event grow organically, potentially using more of the Indiana State Fairgrounds as the festival evolves.

“We’re going to keep the capacity limited in the first year because we’re so invested in creating an exceptional experience for the people who are on board with us from day one,” Peck says. “An event is just an idea until you get the community there and the thing actually happens. If it’s special, then it takes on a life of its own.”