Insight USA Insight Life Is Beautiful Festival announces its 2016 return By Sarah Feldberg / February 08, 2016 Share 1 -- When Kendrick Lamar rapped the final songs of Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas last September and sore-footed revelers stumbled toward the exits, a giant question mark hung over the colorful event grounds.Would this be the final installment of the music, art, food and learning festival? Or would Life Is Beautiful, the downtown party that had reflected and contributed to the neighborhood’s revival, live on?Created by former Cosmopolitan Entertainment Director Rehan Choudhry, Life Is Beautiful debuted in 2013 as a two-day, multi-disciplinary entertainment experience held in the urban heart of Las Vegas. Co-produced by San Francisco’s Another Planet and funded in part by Tony Hsieh-backed investment group Downtown Project, the fest’s first year included bands like the Killers and Alabama Shakes, famed chefs cooking up culinary demos on a dedicated stage, a full speaker series and a robust art program that saw a defunct motel converted into an art gallery and outdoor walls covered in vibrant murals.Life Is Beautiful, the three-day music, art, food and learning festival, announced its return to Downtown Las Vegas for a fourth year Sept. 23 to 25. Locals raved about the home-grown event, and in year two LlB expanded to three days. Year three brought new partners on board, Electric Daisy Carnival-producer Insomniac Events and Las Vegas media company Wendoh Media, which acquired a majority stake in the festival. However, while LIB has certainly been growing in its short lifetime — in 2015, almost 105,000 people attended over three days, up from roughly 87,000 the year before — like most young festivals, it also has yet to turn a profit. So far, Life Is Beautiful has reportedly accumulated more than $10 million in losses. Life Is Beautiful CEO Justin Weniger called the losses up to this point a “substantial investment,” and said that after the third edition the management team sat down and examined the event’s viability.Last week, the festival emphatically answered those questions lingering since last fall by announcing its return Sept. 23 to 25. A limited pre-sale of discounted tickets sold out in just 28 minutes on Feb. 4.“We felt that the festival had hit a tipping point,” Weniger said. “Of course we want the business model to become sustainable, and we’re confident that it will over the course of the next several years.”That’s good news not just for Weniger and fans of LIB, but also for the downtown neighborhood that has hosted the event, where burgeoning redevelopment has blossomed over the festival’s lifetime. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says the festival’s blend of music, food and art mirrors the culture of downtown and that LIB acts as a marketing tool for the neighborhood, introducing it to visitors who might otherwise stay on the Strip. In 2014, LIB brought in $13.9 million in direct visitor spending, and that figure leapt to $21.5 million in 2015, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.“It’s been growing and getting better attendance every year,” Goodman said. “I’m just hopeful that it always remains in downtown.” However, the area’s revival also raises some issues for the event, which shuts down 18 city blocks to create the festival footprint and affects traffic flow, residents and businesses. “Three years ago there was not a lot happening in those 18 city blocks,” Weniger said. “Now that area is thriving.”Life Is Beautiful has been part of that change. The festival has cleaned up vacant lots to use for stages and beautified the walls of abandoned buildings with murals that remain year after year. The event has also invited the greater Las Vegas community into the formerly decrepit downtown for a weekend each fall and welcomed thousands of out-of-town visitors to experience the neighborhood at its most electric.Of course, for that momentum to continue, the festival will eventually have to reach financially sustainability. Weniger said that will come in time with less infrastructure spending, greater efficiencies created, more corporate sponsorships and, of course, more ticket sales. “We think it’s going to be a breakout year,” Weniger said of LIB’s upcoming return.Maybe this September, when the lights go down on the final headliner, guests won’t leave questioning whether Life Is Beautiful will live on.