Behind the Minds of Florida Fin Fest 

Words by Carmen Macri 


If there is one thing Jacksonville loves more than its beaches, it’s a free festival. So, it comes as no surprise that our charming coastal town has eagerly embraced the arrival of the free marine conservation festival, Fin Fest.


As we embark on the third year of Fin Fest, its fundamental mission remains unwavering: to harmoniously blend the worlds of ocean education and entertainment. The aim is to not only enrich our understanding of marine life but also illuminate the ways our daily routines influence these delicate ecosystems.


But before we delve too deep into the story, let’s begin at the origin.


Before the emergence of Fin Fest, there was Real Time Entertainment and Management, also known as RTEAM. This entrepreneurial venture was incubated during Niko Costas’s college years and thrived in the realms of event production, talent acquisition, artist management, and relationship cultivation.


“I went to school for event management and started our company Real Time Entertainment and Management (RTEAM for short) in my dorm room in college,” Niko shared. “As things progressed and we went through school, we got more and more opportunities to manage events and produce events across the US.”


As RTEAM grew, Niko and his younger brother Lukas grew increasingly disheartened by the staggering waste generated following large-scale events. Witnessing elaborate festival setups result in over half of the materials and resources ending up in landfills or trash cans was dispiriting. This deep concern for the environmental impact spurred them to contemplate a more sustainable approach to event production.


Niko expressed his frustration, stating, “I got really sick of all this waste that was coming from it. I was looking for a way to use my skill set of producing events and bringing people together to raise awareness around ocean education. That stems from a couple of different things, you know, from the wayside, and really encouraging folks to hopefully leave the event having just one thing that they can take away to live a little bit more sustainably. As well as just implementing those practices into actual event production.”


Niko and Lukas had a vision—a blueprint enabling fellow event producers to embrace sustainability wholeheartedly. But their ambition didn’t stop there; they aimed to inspire event-goers to adopt eco-friendly habits in their daily lives when congregating at Fin Fest. These twin goals constitute the bedrock of their mission. Ultimately, they seek to lead by example, cultivating a sense of environmental responsibility and igniting positive change in both the event production sphere and the broader community of eventgoers.


So, how does Fin Fest walk the talk in terms of sustainability?


“We’ve eliminated single-use plastics on site. So you’ll notice all of our drinking is through aluminum and we have a recycling program there. We partnered with Open Water, which is a carbon-neutral and single-use water company, all in aluminum cans,” Niko elaborated. “We sell those on-site at water refill stations. We’re working with our food truck vendors to stop the use of Styrofoam and single-use plastics and really just working with them to help minimize the amount of waste that they use. Overall, we want to try and minimize the event’s carbon footprint.”


Recent developments have seen Fin Fest joining forces with Geneverse, specialists in solar-powered battery cell storage and generators. As a result, the festival’s vendor village is now entirely powered by solar energy harnessed and stored within advanced battery systems. Additionally, they’ve partnered with the Ocean Conservancy to elevate their educational village, further emphasizing their commitment to marine conservation as well as the Georgia Aquarium.


Beyond their dedication to educating Jacksonville on ocean conservation, Niko and Lukas see Fin Fest as an avenue to elevate Jacksonville’s profile on a national scale. As the festival continues to gather momentum, it has garnered the attention of national sponsors.


Niko shared his perspective, stating, “After coming into year three, we’re getting more attention from Reverb and some of these really music-specific focused companies that want to see Jacksonville thrive and grow – Which has been a kind of a goal for us as well. Outside of the sustainability initiatives, just putting our city on a larger scale map for brands to want to come in.” 


From the very start, Fin Fest has been on a remarkable journey of growth and improvement. The first festival took place amid the challenges of COVID-19, setting the stage for continual progress. They’ve consistently elevated the experience for attendees by enhancing their educational village with fresh and engaging interactions like hands-on touch tanks, an underwater VR experience, touch screens and interactive maps. Simultaneously, they have completely revamped their stage setup with upgraded equipment like a 180-degree moving light system and exciting new visuals, all while maintaining their commitment to sustainability.

About Carmen Macri

Since a young age, Carmen Macri knew she wanted to be a writer. She started as our student intern and has advanced to Multi-media Journalist/Creative. She graduated from the University of North Florida and quickly found her home with Folio Weekly. She juggles writing, photography and running Folio’s social media accounts.