ITHACA, N.Y. — Does Ithaca have room for more festivals? The turnout and response for the first Cayuga Sound Festival seems to say “Yes.”

More than 4,000 people turned out for the festival, which took over Ithaca’s Stewart Park on Saturday. Nationally recognized bands like X Ambassadors and The Roots played alongside local favorites all day on two stages beside Cayuga Lake.

The idea for the festival came from X Ambassadors, who are originally from Ithaca. The band wanted to bring a big music festival to their hometown.

Based on the band’s response after the event, they were happy with result. In a statement on the Cayuga Sound Festival website, X Ambassadors said (emphasis theirs): “WE DID IT!!!! First annual Cayuga Sound Festival was a success. Thank you EVERYONE who came, this was LITERALLY a childhood dream come true for us.”

More: Cayuga Sound Festival: ‘F— yeah’ Ithaca was up for hosting new music tradition

The festival was organized by DSP Shows and X Ambassadors management company This Fiction.

Two days after the big festival, which has been in the works since spring, Dan Smalls said the local response to the festival “has been phenomenal.”

“I think our goal was to do something different and super professional, bring a major league musical festival to Ithaca,” Smalls said. “We certainly achieved that.”

To put on the festival cost “well into the six figures,” Smalls said. With proceeds from the festival, Smalls said organizers will be donating about $50,000 to 10 local nonprofits, including the Community School of Music and Arts, Friends of Stewart Park, Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Ithaca Underground, Ithaca City of Asylum, Ithaca Youth Bureau, Planned Parenthood, Southside Community Center, Vitamin L and Youth Farm Project.

In an interview with The Ithaca Voice before the event, X Ambassadors keyboardist Casey Harris said though they’ve toured the world, Ithaca has always remained a special place. They also credit Ithaca for have a great environment for budding artists.

“All kids are super eager to leave their hometown and strike out into the big, wide world,” keyboardist Casey Harris said. “We haven’t seen all the world, but we’ve seen a lot of it. It’s pretty awesome, but there’s something about Ithaca. Every time we come back, we discover something new to appreciate, some new magic about the city … It’s a special place.”

It’s too early to know for sure whether the festival is returning next year, but that’s the intent. Smalls said they want to turn it into a yearly tradition and grow it.

Featured image by Ed Dittenhoefer.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.