ATLANTA (AP) — One of the largest music festivals in Europe has made a splash since crossing into the United States a couple of years ago.
TomorrowWorld returns Friday with 300 international electronic dance music DJs from David Guetta to Afrojack, along with NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal performing as DJ Diesel. The festival in suburban Atlanta has made a big financial impact since its 2013 debut: It is estimated to produce millions dollars for Georgia and is hiring around 5,000 workers for the event this year.
Festival co-founder Michiel Beers said in an interview with The Associated Press that he hopes the third annual festival can bring in even more business.
"We want to build around this fantasy world," Beers said of TomorrowWorld, an expansion of Tomorrowland, which drew 400,000 people for the 11th annual festival in July in Boom, Belgium. Around 160,000 attended TomorrowWorld last year.
"This has become a symbol of global unity of happiness, bringing people together to have the best time of their life," Beers said of the festival, which took more than a month to build. "It's so surreal to see flags from Brazil and Africa at one spot. People travel 24 hours just to be here. I'm proud of that."
Organizers expect festival-goers from 75 countries at an 8,000-acre farm in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, that will be filled with nine 3D element stages, including one that floats in a lake. The festival partnered with "Top Chef" finalist Kevin Gillespie to build a sit-down restaurant on site.
Around 40,000 people are expected to camp onsite in the DreamVille area, which has food, shopping, and yoga and spinning classes.
"It's the beacon for EDM (electronic dance music), a place where DJs come to bring our best stuff," said Alex Pall of the duo The Chainsmokers. "It's like the Disney World for festivals. Maybe you're a businessman one day, and dress in a tutu at the festival. It's a fantasy. You forget about reality."
The festival is also an opportunity for artists to unveil new music and build their popularity, such as Kaskade, who will release his new album, "Automatic," on Friday at the festival.
"It makes it more fun," Kaskade said.
Organizers say safety is a top priority. People under 21 can't get in, and there are body checks, spot checks for cars, ID checks, undercover security guards patrolling and an event control center, said Jamie Reilly, director of TomorrowWorld.
Chattahoochee Hills Mayor Tom Reed said he looks forward to the influx of young people in the area over the course of the city's 10-year contract to host TomorrowWorld.
"They are the kind of people who will move to Chattahoochee Hills in 10 years, when they're starting their families as our villages start growing," Reed said.
If Beers had it his way, he said, TomorrowWorld would stay in Georgia for a century. Los Angeles and countries from Canada to Australia lobbied to host the festival, but Beers said he "fell in love" with the Georgia farmland that resembles the Tomorrowland space in Belgium.
"It's not only bringing a popular festival here from Belgium," Beers said. "It's also about finding a balance with everything between what's happening locally. This is our second home."
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