Panama Open Air Festival draws major acts 40,000 music fans celebrate Bonn's summer festival season
Bonn · The line-up for the Panama Festival was impressive: The Black Eyed Peas, Bastille, Alle Farben, DJ Snake and Fritz Kalkbrenner. They revved up the fans, mainly young people soaking up the atmosphere again after a pandemic which imposed many restrictions. Bonn police had nothing but praise for how well everything went, but residents on the opposite side of the Rhine complained about the noise.
It’s getting crowded in the area in front of the stage. More and more security personnel are ordered to the main stage of the Panama Open Air Festival on Friday evening. In the end, there is at least one security guard at every loudspeaker. On stage, helpers scurry around hectically, setting up instruments, wiring and checking them. Everything has to happen quickly. A technician goes to the photographers standing directly in front of the stage and instructs them about the confetti cannons that will be fired in the next few minutes. "Just don't stand directly in front of them," he says. It's the usual preparations when extremely well-known artists are expected a short time later.
Meanwhile, the crowds cheer, shout and sing. A young woman holds up a sign that reads "I love Black Eyed". Minutes later, none other than the Black Eyed Peas take the stage. World-famous stars in the Rheinaue in Bonn. They immediately captivate the fans with their well-known hits "I Gotta Feeling" or "Let's Get It Started". Before them, the successful British band Bastille and DJ Alle Farben had already been on stage. The concert from the Black Eyed Peas was only one of many concerts at the weekend.
Biggest Panama Festival ever
Various top-name artists, thousands of visitors, booming basses and the best summer weather: these were the ingredients for this year's Panama Open Air Festival, which took place on Friday and Saturday in the Rheinaue. On Saturday, visitors got a chance to hear Bausa, French Montana, Fritz Kalkbrenner, Boris Brejcha and many other artists.
"Everything was great, we are really happy. It was the biggest Panama we've had so far - especially in terms of the number of visitors and artists," said organizer Sandro Heinemann of Crave Events, a spin-off of RheinEvents and Panama Open Air. A total of 40,000 people flocked to the Rheinaue on both festival days. The event this year was especially big because it was a comeback after a forced pause due to the Covid pandemic. Last year in September, there was a small-scale version of the event with only 5,000 people allowed per day. All of them had to be either vaccinated, recovered or have a negative PCR test. This time, there were no requirements related to the pandemic.
Open Air festival had been missed
It was clear that the young audience had missed the festival in the Rheinaue. And despite the rising Covid incidence rates, the pandemic seemed all but forgotten. Whether directly in front of the stages or in the hot techno tent: visitors with masks were seen only very rarely. The whole event was more about the shared experience of getting to see the well-known bands and DJs and getting together with friends. The Panama Festival is known for its elaborate and creative decorations. The big main stage had 16 LED walls mounted. Two big screens showed the artists, the others showed mainly graphics. Visitors could also rent something to wear for the festival on site, go to the stylist, try their hand at karaoke singing or design their own sandals.
Places in the shade are a scarce commodity in the Rheinaue
"It's so good to feel alive again," said 26-year-old Felix, who attended the festival with a friend. "It's especially great that there is something again for young people in Bonn. There was far too little of that in the last two years," he added.
Lisa from Cologne was with friend Valentina at the Panama Festival. "It's really great, only today it's very warm. There are too few spots in the shade," says Lisa. That's why they chose to be behind a tent that provided a little shade on Saturday. They came to the Rheinaue to see Bastille and the Black Eyed Peas. "Today, we're just going to take a look around," said Lisa. She thought it was a shame that free water wasn't offered. "On Friday, we stood in line for 45 minutes for a water," Lisa said.
But organizer Sandro Heinemann countered this, saying there were two drinking water stations where visitors could help themselves. He did, however, admit to problems at the beverage stands. "Yes, we had glitches on Friday. But were able to fix them by increasing staff and updating the system during the night," Heinemann said. Drinks could be paid on site only by EC card, but on Friday the network connection kept breaking down. As is so often the case at festivals, some visitors complained to GA about high drink prices. "The 0.3 liter beer for 3.75 euros is certainly not a bargain, but a normal price," said organizer Heinemann. There was a deposit fee of two euros per drink.
Complaints about the volume
What he and his team also had to worry about again was the volume at the festival. "We are always thinking a great deal about the noise level, we are always at the limit with the noise regulations," he said. On Friday, there were mainly complaints from the other side of the Rhine in the direction of Oberkassel, causing them to make an adjustment. The strict noise limitations could influence the growth of the festival in the future. It has grown this year, he said, but if it were to get any bigger, it probably wouldn't be possible because of the limits.
But what is particularly important to Heinemann is that "Panama was once again a peaceful festival this year with no incidents worth mentioning." This was confirmed by police operations on location, which praised the young people. "We are really very pleased with the (conduct of) the visitors - everything ran smoothly," the head of police operations told GA. Only a few petty theft offenses were reported. (Orig. text: Maximilian Mühlens / Translation: ck)