Virgin Mobile FreeFest draws its largest audience

The Virgin Mobile FreeFest drew its largest audience this year, organizers said Saturday.

About 50,000 people were projected to have attended the festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday, said spokeswoman Audrey Fix Schaefer. That's a record audience for what was already Maryland's largest outdoor music festival.

The turnout was remarkable because just a couple of days before organizers "were close to canceling" this year's event over the recent weather, said Virgin founder Richard Branson

Last year, an estimated 40,000 people attended the festival, which was headlined by M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem. The Black Keys and Deadmau5 headlined Saturday.

FreeFest started six years ago at Pimlico Race Track and moved to Merriweather last year. Since 2009, the bulk of the festival's tickets have been given away through online giveaways.

This year, at least 35,000 tickets were given away online, through a giveaway on Facebook. It was not clear Saturday what percentage of the remaining tickets were paid for - paid tickets cost $49.50 - given away by sponsors and partners, or handed to participants in Virgin's volunteer program.

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