Adam (left) and Grant Mills want to make Wisconsin Dells a music festival destination.
If you ask Adam and Grant Mills what is the secret to their success, they’ll credit the Madison public school system. The twin brothers, who graduated from West High School in 2001, had no plans to attend college and “wanted nothing to do with books or classrooms” until they got involved with DECA, a marketing and business development program for high school students.
“That was our first opportunity to jump into business,” says Adam Mills, 34. “We started developing business plans, started getting into hospitality. The term for that is entrepreneurship, but we didn’t call it that.”
The brothers continued honing their marketing skills while at college in Dayton, Ohio, working as representatives for brands like Four Loko and Red Bull and eventually getting into event promotion after undergrad. Now they’re running their own company, Event CRU, which has put on major festivals in such cities as Las Vegas, Seattle and Minneapolis. They’re based in Las Vegas, but they’ve “always been talking about figuring out a way to make it back to Wisconsin and do a festival there,” Mills says.
Thanks to a “serendipitous” business connection, that dream is coming true in September. Event CRU is putting on a two-day Latin music festival in Mauston, which about 20 miles northwest of Wisconsin Dells. The festival, called Los Dells, will be held Sept. 2-3 at the Woodside Sports Complex. Mills can’t release the name of the performers yet, but he promises some of the biggest names in Latin music.
“I want people to say, ‘Why Wisconsin?’” Mills says. “And then I want them to change their minds.”
Mills expects Los Dells to draw 50,000-60,000 people over two days; the goal is to grow Los Dells into the largest Latin music festival in North America within three years. “I think the odds are against us, but that’s really what is driving us to make this happen,” he says.
Event CRU is working with Woodside Sports Complex ownership to build a permanent festival ground, complete with bathrooms, running water and space for camping. Eventually, Mills hopes the facility will host more music events. “In years to come we could do a country festival, maybe three nights with Elton John — that’s what I want to create,” he says.
In addition to putting the Wisconsin Dells area on the map as a music destination, the Mills brothers are also giving back to their alma mater. This year they’re donating $5,000 to West High, and they hope to donate $1 million “by the time they die.” It might seem a lofty goal, but they’re eager to give back.
“If it wasn’t for [DECA], and for the students that we met in that program,” Mills says, “we wouldn’t be where we are today.”