GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) — It's a big weekend for live music on the Alabama coast, with the third annual Hangout Festival opening Friday on the public beach in Gulf Shores.
Organizers say three-day festival passes are sold out, but single-day tickets are still available.
Started during the BP oil spill in 2010, the Hangout Festival provides the coastal tourism industry with a big jumpstart on beach season. Acts this year include Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
For the thousands of people, the festival is a music-lover's paradise. And for local businesses and the tourism industry it's turning into a marquee event that infuses an estimated $30 million into the beach economy bridging a traditionally slow time between spring break and Memorial Day weekend.
For Paul Johnson of Atlanta who was hanging with his buddies on West Beach on Thursday afternoon, he was anticipating a fun weekend with this being his second time at the Hangout Fest.
"Usually you either go to the beach for a vacation or you go to a music festival but here you get the best of both worlds," Johnson told al.com (http://bit.ly/112zpzc ) "You get to come down and get crazy with friends for a weekend."
And Johnson wasn't alone as hundreds of 20-somethings dotted the beach, soaking in the sun waiting for the festivities to kick into high gear Friday with 24 bands playing on four different stages and the Kings of Leon headlining the night.
Joanie Flynn, vice president of marketing of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, said the Hangout Festival is really coming into its own with the economic impact growing each year since its start in 2010.
"I think people are getting more comfortable with it being the festival that it is and the fact that you're going to discover music and genres that you've never run into before," Flynn said. "That's one of the things that Shaul Zislin, the owner of the Hangout and the concert meister, really looks forward to -- introducing people to those new genres. And this year we think with 60 bands there's bound to be somebody you don't know anything about and that you're going to fall in love with.
"And when you add all of the amenities that they create out on the beach it really is such a unique concert festival."