FloydFest 6 concluded Sunday with a rousing concert by Railroad Earth. Four days of festival are now in the books.
Crowds appeared lighter than normal to some observers who have attended the last several events. Festival organizers predicted a turnout of 12,000 over the four days and they reported pre-ticket sales were 20 percent higher than normal. Some felt Saturday night’s turnout was one of the largest crowds yet. (UPDATE — 07/31: Erika Johnson, co-owner of the event, puts the four-day crowd at 11,000 including volunteers and staff.)
FloydFest is a firmly-entrenched part of the summer music festival scene and a number of attendees said they have been to most, if not all, of the previous events.
But there are some signs that FloydFest needs to evolve. Some longtime attendees say there is a sameness to the festival, that is is too repetitious. Others complained about the lack of "big-name" acts this year. Bluegrass great Sam Bush (above) was the big name this year and is appearance came on opening night before a crowd of about 1,500. I talked with some attendees who say new festivals springing up on the circuit offer more variety and vary their programming more from year to year. When the format becomes familiar it’s hard not to walk around with a feeling of "been here, done that."
Organizers have worked long and hard to steer the festival away from his "hippie" image and towards a more family-oriented event. There are many more things for the family to do but many of those kids come from the same alternative lifesytlers who gave the festival its "hippie" sensibilities and, for many, the festival will always be a mini-Woodstock. There’s no right or wrong answer for this. It depends on your perspective.
Some long-time attendees say the crowd this year was different — younger, more rowdy and less "family friendly" than in past years. A number of fights broke out among the power drinkers. Police and organizers were quick to show troublemakers the door, which is good because some other summer festivals have been ruined when they gained a reputation for rowdiness.
And the festival needs to find a way to deal with the National Park Service’s desire to turn the festival into a revenue generator by bringing in their "Criminal Interdiction Team" to harass festival goers and hand out tickets like candy.
Some of these problems can be attributed to growing pains. Others to the politics of the time. But they are problems that Kris and Erika will have to face and resolve if FloydFest is to continue to be a mainstay of the community. I’m confident they will. Many predicted FloydFest 1 would be the first and last event. Predictions of doom followed other years. Next year’s festival dates are already set and tickets go on sale Dec. 1.
44 thoughts on “What now FloydFest?”
Hey y’all. First I want to say I had a blast at Floydfest. So much was the blast I was ready for my own bed, and 17 hours of sleep by mid Sunday afternoon. Whew!
The stories of the Park Rangers and the C.I.T. are alarming. Things are changing fast in this country. Driving up I-77 from the Charlotte, NC area I passed through Mt. Airy (the basis for the town of Mayberry of the Andy Griffith show). Reading about the Park Rangers and C.I.T. I am reminded of the arguments Andy and Barney Fife used to get into about how to treat people. How the law is the law but it is there to protect people and not harass them. Barney regularly overstepped his boundaries and went after the common citizen for minor transgressions. In the show it was supposed to be his character flaw and it was supposed to be funny anyone would take the law that far.
It’s not funny now. This is no T.V. show we are living in and the festival I went to was to get away from the real life for a while. I wanted to escape from the bad news and the long hours of work I put in every week. Why are we as voting, tax paying citizens putting up with our local governments hiring and training a bunch of Barney Fifes to patrol our lives? It is EVERYWHERE and getting worse. This is not limited to Floyd and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Second, I had read on the official website that parking was a 5 minute shuttle from the festival grounds. I thought wow, that’s going to be a little aggravating seeing how my bed is in the covered bed of my truck. I then read that parking was a suggested donation of $10. I thought well, if I have money after the festival I’ll and the cause is worthy I’ll gladly donate $10 or more or less for the charity.
I pulled into the grounds after sitting in stopped traffic for an hour on I-77 because of an accident. I was late for Sam Bush and had just been on the parkway for 30 miles. “$10” says the person at the entrance. “Um, yeah.” I said. “Suggested donation, right.” “No. $10 to park,” she convinced me. An officer was there and I said “Sir?” and he said “It’s $10 and not optional if you want to park.”
You know. I found out later it was a good cause. I’m glad they got my money, but you know? Suggested Donation should be just that.
Once inside the festival, I had a great, and I mean great time. The music was phenomenal. No complaints here about not enough headliners. There were many, many acts that belonged on the Main Stage or Hill Holler at prime time and would have rocked it. The Old Ceremony surprised many people. American Dumpster, Langhorn Slim, William Walter and Co., Roses Pawn Shop, Sol Creech Band, were all amazing talents.
This was a great festival. They paid attention to the Port-a-Johns. The sound was second to none. The late night jams were appreciated. The food was great. I’m starting to understand the prices. I had a plate of blackened mahi mahi with a “special relish” and sides of greens, and mac & cheese Friday afternoon. Try that at a restaurant and pay $20. Try it at Floydfest and get it for $10. I collected my suggested donation back right then.
I also discovered the cure for a hangover Sat. morning at Kate’s Outback. Their Thai Tea did the trick for me and then for about ten more people after I suggested it to them.
This was a great time. Positives all around. That one hill by the showers and drum circle killed me over and over again but it didn’t stop me from going back for more. Big Time Kudos and I can’t wait ’til next year!
Every time I come out of a painkiller-induced haze I’m amazed at the number of comments that keep coming in on this issue.
Erika, thank you for your comments. I’m sorry you feel the article in The Floyd Press had a negative slant. I did not feel it was so and neither does the Editor of the Press. We discussed it this afternoon after I read your concerns. I tried to provide balance between those who praised the festival and those who had criticisms. It is not my job as a journalist to either agree or disagree with what people tell me. It is my job to try and seek out perspectives of those who attended. Of the 11 vendors I interviewed, seven said business was down, two said it was about the same and two said it was better. Bill Bell has been at every FloydFest since number one and he felt business is off. Tom Phelps said he did well. Both felt they might have done better if they had had power for lights on Friday night.
As a photographer I could care less if there are "name acts" or not. From a photographic point of view, the people are the show and I try to reflect that in my shooting. I usually pick one national and one regional act a year to focus on for the "performer" shots and then turn the lens towards the crowd.
I don’t need to be thanked or given "kudos" for doing my job. I’ve been a journalist for more than 40 years and have covered musical shows that range from high school marching bands to The Rolling Stones. The goal is always the same: Try and capture the spirit of the event. I try to walk into each event with no preconceptions and let the story tell itself.
When I get back on my feet, let’s you, Kris and I sit down and talk about it.
Erika I have to agree with Carol. If the lavish spread that The Floyd Press gave you is what you consider negative press then there are other music venues in town that would kill for some of it. The Press told a far more complete story than The Roanoke Times both on the festival itself and the problem with the Park Rangers. I understand The Roanoke Times was a sponsor of the event so I would not expect them to look too closely at anything that might hurt their investment in the event. I thought the photos were fantastic and the coverage extremely balanced. If you wanted only glowing reviews and kudos you should hire your own writers and put out your own newspaper.
Floyd Fest is an amazing endeavor and I congratulate all that make it work. The love and passion translate to a great experience. The Ranger problem, and act scheduling are minor issues that can be tweaked. Initially skeptical of the concept, and the disruption it could bring, I’m now up there dancing in my party shirt every year! Thanks!
Now the critique:
Thursday night was the acme. Beautiful weather and the most professional and polished act – Sam Bush and his band. There wasn’t a build to the festival, so I’m not likely to buy the weekend pass, I’ll just pick the night that you folks want to showcase, and attend then. Which is fine for me, but not likely what the org wants and needs.
Food choices. I don’t camp at the fest, so I’m not inclined to buy trinkets and crafts, lug them about the site, and ride back to parking with my loot each day. More food and drink choices would be good.
Ticket pricing. It is at the top end. A volume of acts does not make up for a strong main act each day. I couldn’t spend the whole day on site, so when I arrived each evening I had missed some of the best. I’m talking Friday specifically. The music quality should build into the evening, and should build to Sat. night.
Car campers. I hate ’em. They drag too much shit along and that includes huge amounts of alcohol. Make the campers carry, wheel or otherwise minimize their footprint. And given the small delta in costs, I suspect my weekend pass subsidized the pampered car campers.
NPS Rangers. The gloves are off. If the NPS Police/Rangers can’t see themselves as a member of the community, then we have a bigger problem than FF. We have a NPS mission problem. There are no terrorists, and there is no law enforcement crisis that would justify the pre-meditated assault on the Fest attendees. Too many people were blindsided by what the locals know to be profiling by Park rangers.
FF should secure a Memorandum of Understanding from the NPS, specifically supporting FF and restricting Rangers enforcement to real moving violations. In light of past abuse, Rangers will be subject to witness by FF volunteers, photo documentation, and audio recording. If that accord can not be reached then the Fest Org. must tell attendees to avoid the Parkway property and simply negotiate easements for Parkway crossing under private flagmen. The BRP will be specifically and publicly shunned by the Festival. There won’t even be a veneer of cooperation between the Fest and the BRP, there will only be a legally actionable agreement.
Again, I had a great time, and applaud all that worked so hard to make Floyd Fest happen. You folks are amazing.
This is the text of the letter I mailed to Phil Francis, Parkway Superintendent, two days ago. It was written on my professional letterhead. I hope others reading this will follow suit.
I researched this issue as thoroughly as I could before writing. I had seen The Milepost and was aware that Erika had met with Parkway officials prior to the festival, but had not read Francis’ quotes in the Roanoke Times until afterwards. There is an incongruous inconsistency between the Parkway’s supposed support of the festival and their reaction to it.
I would encourage others to also write. Personally I believe individual letters are more valuable than petitions; nevertheless I signed the one at the festival. Again, I applaud Doug for his efforts in exposing and reporting on this issue and hope there can be a large enough grassroots response such that the Parkway folks will realize they were out of line.
(signed) another Doug (& Di)
Superintendent, Blue Ridge Parkway
199 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28803
Dear Superintendent Francis,
I read that you recently suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. I wish you speedy recovery and good health. I understand you will be out of work for several weeks, so do not expect a response to this letter any time soon.
My wife and I recently relocated to Asheville from Raleigh where I had gone to school, lived and worked for over thirty years. During those years we frequented the Blue Ridge Parkway whenever we were in western North Carolina or southwestern Virginia. I can say without hesitation that it is my favorite road on the planet.
Shortly after my arrival here I joined the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I felt their mission to preserve, protect and promote the Parkway was something I wanted to be a part of. I was hopeful that their mission would be consistent with yours.
However, after witnessing and hearing of the actions of members of your staff over the past weekend I felt the human element of managing the Parkway was letting down the scenic. I refer to the role of the Criminal Interdiction Team during Floydfest, a music festival held annually at milepost 170.5 in Virginia. I won’t recount their dealings; by now I’m sure you’ve been inundated with reports of their petty policing.
A part of what distresses me is the apparent inconsistency between your comments, published a week before the festival in the Roanoke Times, and your staff’s actions. You were quoted as saying “We have a few more rangers in the area, but it’s not a huge increase. As long as they obey the rules of the road and drive safely, nobody will even know we’re there.” According to published reports there were close to 200 traffic stops, including the sheriff of Floyd County, hardly “nobody will even know we’re there.”
I’m further dismayed by the level and degree of your policing when the Parkway itself promoted Floydfest in its own publication, The Milepost. In it there is a picture of a performer at last year’s festival, and Floydfest is included in the list of festivals on or near the Parkway. Is your staff this aggressive at all the festivals listed?
Floydfest has worked hard to be a positive member of the New River and Roanoke Valley communities. A survey by Radford University two years ago concluded the economic impact of the festival then was an estimated $1 million dollars. Even you acknowledged “They have a good event, a good family event” in the same Roanoke Times story.
So why were vehicles being stopped for beads and lanyards hanging from rear view mirrors, cars with kids in them searched and the sheriff, presumably a law abiding citizen, stopped? Don’t these actions seem heavy handed to you for “a good family event?” Doesn’t it seem out of sorts that a member of Congress was contacted to question the extent of the Parkway’s enforcement of a Parkway promoted event?
As one attendee describes it, Floydfest is kind of like summer camp for grown ups. It certainly does not need nor does it deserve the level and degree of heavy handed police presence that you and your staff gave it this year. I certainly hope that you will moderate your staff’s role when next year’s festival is held, such that we really won’t know they are there.
Douglas W. Corkhill
cc: Erika Johnson, Floydfest
Congressman Rick Boucher
Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Erika I think everyone here realizes how wrapped up you and Kris are in Floyd Fest. However, I cannot agree with you that the Floyd Press coverage was negative. Two pages of photographs? Two stories on Page 1?
I just went back and read the story carefully. What slant? Doug reported what the people told him. Some attendees said they might not be back next year. Others said they would. He also quoted people who said they would be back next year. He also quoted people who said they had fun.
It is not a reporter’s job to be your press agent. It is his job to report the story, good and bad, and provide an accounting of what happened at the event. I too talked with vendors who said their business was off from last year. I know some were upset when the power went out and stayed out for hours. I thought the prices some of the food vendors charged were out of line. I don’t remember them being that high last year.
So Rob at Oddfellas said there wasn’t as much buzz this year. He was right. Was Doug supposed to leave that out of the story because you might not like what Rob said? He also quoted Frank Walker saying positive things about the crowd sizes.
The second paragraph of the story read: “Even if the rain had come it probably would not have dampened the enthusiasm of festival goers, some who have attended each summer for the past half dozen years.”
This is what you call negative?
It sounds like you might have been happier if the Parkway cops had arrested Doug and kept him from attending the festival this year. Then he could not have written all those “negative” things.
Blogging is really not my thing, and this will be the last one I post. I’d much rather run into any of you in the Cafe del Sol and have this conversation personally, then sit here trying to shape my multitude of feelings into words, clear and cohesive enough not to be misinterpreted.
First, however, Doug, as I haven’t seen you personally, and much of what I understand you were doing to combat the parkway craziness I have come to know post-festival, THANK YOU. Sam, although we certainly owe Doug a debt of gratitude for these efforts on behalf of all our patrons, I would like to put forth that we were engaging similarly ourselves throughout the event; organizing petitions, creating and distributing flyers with an 800- number to call, and rallying our lawyers who had a 3-way conversation w/Boucher and the parkway administration Saturday, with ultimately led to their scaling down. Doug’s efforts were tremendously helpful on this front, and again, kudos and ‘thanks’ to him.
To those of you who think I’ve been overly defensive, perhaps you’re right. FloydFest is our baby, which we have tried to parent and steward responsibly, and times under great duress, and which we cannot help but feel protective of. It is honestly hurtful to read words like FloydFest needs to “clean up it’s act, pay it’s bills and be a good citizen.” and that Kris and I have been “caught fudging numbers”… He and I gave an extremely open interview to the Roanoke Times where we gave a precise accounting of what numbers have been over the years, as well as our personal feelings and experience over the past six years. Numbers can be easily distorted, particularly when based on spontaneous guesstimation, and it was actually a guesstimate (that originated from neither Kris nor myself) that was printed in the paper in year one of FloydFest that Kris and I were correcting in our interview. As for paying our bills, please, if there’s an outstanding bill I haven’t paid, do let me know! While we struggled with near bankrupcy for over three years, we are proud to have paid off every legitimate debt we are aware of. And if I’m coming across as defensive here, I am defintly feeling that way on this point. I hardly think a local blog is forum for discussion of third party finances; I’ll now follow my own advice and say no more about it.
Honestly folks, anybody can write anything they want to about FloydFest and any other subject. My personal feelings, which were shared by many other folks in our organization and close to the festival, were that the article in the Floyd Press had a negative slant. Maybe we’ve lost all objectivity when it comes to FloydFest- that may be true, but we came out of it riding really high- SO MANY people communicating their wonderful experience, and then our local paper makes it sound like the vendors didn’t do well, (there’s plenty of contrary opinion on that which I’ve received from vendors, 50% of attendees polled might not come back, etc.. even Rob from Oddfella’s saying “floydfest just didn’t have quite the same buzz this year”..) it just feels disheartening. And Kris gets props from almost every quarter on his stellar musical line-up. Attendees have come to trust his ear for music, and love discovering new acts. The whole ‘big name’ issue is so relative- but he does take artist suggestions from any and all quarters- feel free to chime in with a specific suggestion. And that goes for everything- we work year round on the festival, with many invaluable folks from the local community- and are always striving to make it better. Of course it isn’t perfect- what is!?- but there is a degree of love and care behind it that will weather any storm.
So.. hope I haven’t offended anyone w/this post- we consider FloydFest an art project, and art is always open to interpretation. Doug, thanks for spawning the conversation, the rest of you.. see ya’ round town!
It is a shame that a journalist can’t offer solid commentary and suggestions about a festival without the organizers getting defensive and calling him a naysayer. I would dare say there isn’t a stronger voice defending the music venues of the area than Doug and, Erika, you should be ahshamed of jumping in here with such a defensive attitude.
I have attended every FloydFest since the beginning and will be back next year. But I recognize the need for the festival to evolve and adapt. Yes, like others, I would like to have heard more “name” bands but I enjoyed the acts that I saw. Yes, I felt the crowd this year was different. I saw open containers of alcohol at the concerts and saw more rowdiness than usual. There were areas of the festival taht I felt I should avoid after dark. I’ve never felt that fear before.
FloydFest can, and should, welcome criticism and look for ways to improve the event. We should remember the days when the primary reputation of the festival was that it didn’t pay its bills and it stiffed vendors. I know people who say they are still owed money from FloydFest 1.
Erika, your reputation for accuracy and honesty with numbers is hardly sterling. You and your partner have been caught fudging the numbers in the past and there was an admission of such in the paper last week. I went back on this blog and counted six stories and a dozen photos about FloydFest and most of the space was devoted to the good times that people were having along with the stories about the boorish behavior of the Park Rangers. I would dare say this is hardly the work of a naysayer.
I read Doug’s blog because he tells it like he sees it. He is not a cheerleader. Instead he is a journalist. We have enough cheerleader bloggers in Floyd County. Why question the motives of someone who actually seeks to report news?
I went back and looked at Doug’s first post about Floyd Fest this year. It read:
FloydFest is underway, kicking off the first night of concerts with the great Sam Bush (above) whose concert featured a more electric and rock-oriented sound than we’ve seen from him in the past.
Bush’s concert capped a beautiful opening day and the festival, which runs through Sunday on the Patrick County farm just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, features an eclectic mix of music, arts, crafts, food and family-oriented entertainment.
I’m sorry but I can not see how this qualifies as a “naysayer.” His wrap up of the event raises some good questions and his report on the Sam Bush crowd says a crowd of “about 1,500” attended. Is Erika upset because he didn’t say “more than 1,500” instead? Now that is picking a really small nit.
I attended Thursday’s concert by Sam Bush because that was the only entertainer this year that interested me. That is my choice as a consumer. I went back with some friends on Saturday for a while during the day but I also avoided the Parkway during the event because Doug was the only blogger with guts enough to tell us about the Park Rangers and their shameful treatment of those trying to attend the festival. Fred apparently did not attend this year, Colleen was too busy gushing about her son’s girlfriend and David’s van broke down and he didn’t make it. If it had not been for Doug’s warning I might have been on the Parkway and been a victim of the Rangers’ example of extreme law enforcement.
Doug, stay off that broken foot and get well. We need you back so we can at least get some facts about what is happening around here.
Thanks for pointing out the original; however my interpretation of “naysaying” was not directed at Doug’s text. This Fest has been carrying the donkey in the community for some time. Several posts, were throwing down with the critics, I missed seeing Bernie. Not to diminish his opinion. Nit picking is whether 1000 or 1500 are on-site, whether they actually witnessed SamBush picking the splinters out – who knows?
Being local, we took the Little road too, and just crossing the BRPkwy were distressed at seeing 3 cars pulled over. Doug has it right, the drivers did not fit one profile; one was dark skinned, one had a fully loaded minivan, one had a p/u with loose camping gear. All had groups of hostile Park Police, hands on weapons, confronting and requiring emptying of pockets etc onto the hood or roadside. It freaked my kids right out. Doug told me about his encounter Thursday evening, publishing his account has opened some eyes, the biggest warning is when the journalists are told to stand down.
For better or worse FF has chosen to run an open show. The laundry is on the line, I don’t see pretense either in their interviews or the production. Many an entity has been torn down by stigma. A slick organization has an answer for everything, I prefer the edgy organization.
I read the Floyd Press over breakfast at Blue Ridge. Wow! Two full pages of photos plus two stories and more photos on the front page! Can you imagine what Doug might have done if he wasn’t such a ‘naysayer’? Come on folks! You all got good press and people had a good time. What the hell are you bitchin’ about?
Ask yourself this: What kind of coverage did we have of the local music scene before he came to town? Does anyone else provide this level of coverage? Had anyone else put as much time and effort into telling Floyd’s story? A friend at Sally’s coffee shop told me this week that Doug’s story about the Parkway cops got national play and was picked up by hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs and newspapers. Erika should be kissing his feet, or at least the unbroken foot, and not griping about some constructive and in my opinion on the mark comments about the fest.
Some of you here are starting to sound like an alternative Ralph Hayden.
I have to admire Doug’s ability to spark community discussion. I am glad to see the issues aired here.
The points Doug makes are eloquent and from my point of view valid.
Erika, I understand your need to defend your event but I truly believe you need to open your ears and listen. Floyd Fest is a valuable part of this community but it still needs to clean up its act, pay its bills and be a good citizen of the community.
You have a great thing going. Do not blow it.
It is interesting how what we write can be so mis-interpreted. So, all you folks running to Doug’s aid didn’t read as closely as you may have…please call the dogs off 😉
It doesn’t appear Erika called Doug a ‘Nay-sayer’…I didn’t refer to him that way either. Frankly, I respect Doug’s work; lots…I know him. I also respect the effort of the FF promoters…I know them also. I didn’t read Doug’s comments as negative, nor did I read Erika’s comments as defensive.
Erika pointed out that some in our community still ‘nay-say’…that unfortunately is true; more or less.
Remember that game in elementary school where the teacher whispers something into one child’s ear and they in turn do the same to their classmate next to them; until it goes all the way around the circle…and when the last child was asked to say what was originally whispered…it was not at all what was first said? Is this what happened here and at FF? We all experienced the event, but came away with different impressions…?
Is that what’s happening here?
Davis I think what you saw here was an unwillingness of some to accept even the mildest criticism of Floyd Fest. When some mentioned the lack of “name” bands the knee-jerk reaction was “if you don’t like it stay home.” I believe there was an honest attempt by some of the commenters here to offer suggestions to correct what they felt were shortcomings. It did not need to become a Doug vs. Erika debate or a anyone vs. anyone else argument either. It did because of the thin-skins and an unwillingness to suggest that some areas could use improvement. It reminded me of the old “America love it or leave it” arguments from the Vietnam war days. If we want the “naysayers” to be more tolerant of our points of view then we must learn to be more tolerant of theirs. It must be a two-way street.
Sorry for the delay in responding folks. I’ve been nursing a broken foot and just got back from having the doctor work on it.
I appreciate the comments and the kind words but this should not turn into a debate over who’s right and who’s wrong. Erika is welcome to post her perspectives here and should not be criticized when she does. I welcome her comments.
My original crowd estimate from Sam Bush’s concert was based on what I was told on Thursday night. It was a guess by the festival official who gave it to me and I won’t embarrass her. When I was given an updated figure I posted it. The article I wrote for The Floyd Press called it a "small but appreciative audience." I think 1500 is small for a name act like Sam’s but that’s my perspective, nothing more, nothing less. The weather threatened all day and I’m sure that didn’t help.
The other perspectives on FloydFest were based on what attendees, vendors and volunteers told me over the four days. I talked to many people and several are quoted in the article in today’s Press. The people who buy the tickets are the best sources of information along with the worker bees who put so much time and effort into the event. So are the vendors who depend on FloydFest for part of their livelihood.
Was it a good event? Yes. Could it be better? Of course. All things can, and should, strive to be better. Were there problems? Absolutely. You cannot stage something on this scale without glitches.
So let’s stop the sniping and look towards future events that will be even better. That should be our common goal.
No ill will here; no malice either.
My eyes work fine and so do yours. Pejorative comments can stay home with the nay-sayers. I’m not privy to inside information regarding FF, but it might be more prudent to leave ‘back-room’ comments off the record.
Erika wrote they are always open to ideas, suggestions and constructive critique, so did I miss something? Is this acting ‘thin-skinned’?
As Doug says, “let’s stop the sniping and look towards future events that will be even better. That should be our common goal.”
BTW, if you’d like to discuss more, I’ll buy the coffee, you name the place/time.
Let’s all calm down here and deal with the issue and try to avoid personalities or attacks on each other. This should not be about Kris, Erika or me. It should be about an annual event that draws a lot of attention to the area.
Scott, you say FloydFest "is not meant to create a boom weekend for area business, though the B&Bs probably did well." I’m sorry but you are negating an argument that Kris and Erika use to promote FloydFest to local businesses. They have been quoted often as saying the weekend pumps $1 million or more into the area economy. If the promoters say FloydFest creates a million dollars in benefit to the area how can you argue that businesses should not expect a "boom" weekend? You can’t have it both ways.
When I said FloydFest needed to evolve, the thought came from the concerns that some attendees described as "more of the same." One patron described the format of FloydFest as "comfortable as an old shoe." That’s a double-edged sword. Some that I talked to felt the festival had lost its edge in trying new themes and formats. As I talked with attendees over the four days, I also sensed a "sameness," a feeling of "been there, done that." Had I not heard similar comments from others I might have dismissed it as just the jaded thoughts of a cynical journalist. Some who tour the summer festivals around the country felt that other events have been more willing to experiment with new formats. I don’t make the other summer festivals so I can’t judge if what they said is correct or not but as a four-time attendee I did sense some deja vu. Perhaps the move away from "name" bands this year was evolutionary but it also may have been guided more by economics.
Whether that’s good or bad depends on perspective and what an attendee expects from FloydFest. As the discussion here shows, it depends on what one expects from the festival. Maybe most feel change is not needed. That’s for Kris and Erika to decide. All I did was offer an opinion on this blog, nothing more, nothing less.
It appears obvious here that FloydFest has a public relations image problem that stems primarily from from the festival’s early years. Floyd is a small town and word of mouth can make or break a business. If someone feels they were not treated fairly by FloydFest they are liable to talk and word spreads fast. Former volunteers talk openly about why they no longer volunteer. On the flip side, current volunteers often praise the festival and its organizers. Again, it is a double-edged sword but bad news always travels faster than the good.
When I write, my opinions are limited to this web space. When I write for The Floyd Press, I report news. I don’t write an opinion column. I’ve said before that I, as a reporter, did not feel the story that appeared in The Press was slanted. As a reporter, my articles are subject to editing and review by editors, not only by Wanda at the Floyd Press but also by her boss in Wytheville. Both review everything I write. Both felt the story was fair and balanced. Again, as the discussion here shows, some agree and some disagree. That’s the nature of the journalism profession. I stand by what I wrote and I would write it the same way again based on what I saw, heard and was told.
I love this area. It’s my home. It was my home before I left it in 1965 and it is my home since I returned here in 2004. I also love music, many kinds of music. I don’t play an instrument and can’t sing a note but I can try to capture the magic of music through words, photographs and video. Yet I’ve been accused of trying to destory at least one local band, the Friday Night Jamboree, the Crooked Road and, now, FloydFest. If that were my goal, why would I roam the countryside with camera and videocam and try so hard to capture the music culture that is so vital to the area?
Rather than calling each other names or questioning each other’s motives, why don’t we focus all this energy onto looking forward to see what all of us can do to support the music that makes Floyd so special.
Very interesting reading. Doug, I applaud your efforts to be a source of information, not press agent puffery. Your blog is a delight to read and I visit often.
A lot of people discussing an issue that affectd our community. This is good.
I went to FloydFest. I enjoyed it. I will be back next year.
I also read Doug’s coverage of FloydFest, both here and in The Floyd Press. I enjoyed that as well. I thought it was good coverage.
The debate continues unabated but it would seem to me that both sides want the same thing: a beter Floyd Fest. I’m not from Floyd but I have attended the festival. My partner and I did not make it this year but we will be back. From what I see of the comments here, Floyd is a community of strong opinions. It beats the lack of enthusiasm that dominates where I live. Keep up the good work.
Doug Thompson is an elitist snob and should go back to whatever big city he is from and leave the country life to those of us who know the area and the people.
You are so right countryboy. I saw him strutting around the festival with his big, fancy cameras and his vest that said “Press” on the back. Why the Floyd Press feels the need to employ this old, broken-down big city “journalist” is a mystery to me. They should leave writing about the festival to their other reporters. At least they grew up here and know the area. Floyd has enough urban transplants trying to hell us how to live our lives. We don’t need any more.
Doug was raised in Floyd and graduated high school here. His first job was working for the Press. He did come back to the “city” he came from and it is called Floyd. Anyone who knows him or his writing knows he is a competent and a well qualified journalist.He is also tolerant , unlike some of the writers on this blog. So, grey haired older people can’t cover the news at Floyd Fest? What’s next, grey haired people can’t perform there ? Is it ok with you guys if gray haired folks sell there crafts or food ? Can they dance if theyare old and dont think the way you want them to? Doug has taken great photos of the festival for years, and I hope he continues.
You beat me to the punch on this one. Great comments Joanne.
I went to high school with Doug right here in Floyd County. He is from Willis which has a population of about 11. That is your idea of a big city. I don’t know where countryboy and floydfestfan are from but both are idiots.
I want to state first and foremost that I am a Doug Thompson fan. I appreciate his efforts to highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly that make up the Floyd scene. I have infrequently been the subject of Doug’s writing and photography and am always tickled when he wastes a little ink on me and my endeavors. He helps raise awareness about Floyd’s music and arts scene here and in the wider world and we all appreciate it.
I quite enjoy when Doug writes with a particularly pointed pen, even when it’s dipped in a bit of poison. His efforts to hold the town and county’s government’s feet to the fire are highlights of my Floyd Press reading.
Floyd Fest just completed its sixth and most successful year. It’s natural that Doug’s article and the comments of folks in general take on a more critical tone. For 5 years Floyd Fest was the little engine that could. There were many times when it barely could and sometimes when they wondered if they could. But through hard work, perseverance and a generous and supportive volunteer and audience base they’ve done it for six years. Most of us cheered them on and after year 5 we all saw that they could and would “make it.”
The problem is, however, that when you “make it” (or even when you haven’t made it but others perceive that you have), folks start to look for negatives. Maybe it’s human nature, when someone else succeeds we often wonder what’s wrong with us and why we haven’t made it. It’s natural that the larger and more successful an event is, the more there is to criticize. There is also more to celebrate.
Although I believe Doug was trying to give a balanced view in his recent Floyd Press article, I felt it was more critical than it had to be. FF is not for everyone and not everyone that goes will go again. But it is an asset to our community. It’s an event that raises visibility of the entire area’s music and arts scene locally and worldwide. It is not meant to create a boom weekend for area business, though the B&Bs probably did well. But it puts Floyd on people’s radar and they come to town before and after the event and throughout the year. I know this because I own a business in town and ask my customers how they found us.
In re the comment one attendee made about “second tier” acts, I personally would be thrilled if he/she was including me in that category! However, since he/she was clearly looking for headliners I doubt he/she ever saw me. Though others may have felt “cheated” by the lack of names they recognized, many more were quite pleased to “discover” acts like the WIYOs, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Red Stick Ramblers, and many more high quality acts that may very well headline other festivals because of the buzz generated at Floyd Fest.
I find Doug’s comment that FF needs to “evolve” confusing. The fest site and stages have changed significantly year to year; in this year alone there was significant improvements to the Hill Holler stage, artistic sculptures and to landscaping. The staff and volunteers were never better organized than this year. Indeed, the fact that the lineup was weighted to acoustic acts was a major change that I personally enjoyed.
We sometimes mistake what “evolve” means. Often we think it implies that something “gets better.” Problem is we all have different ideas of what “better” is. Some folks Doug interviewed want more headliners. I hope Kris and Erika don’t bend to that criticism. The headliners mentioned are people you can see at other festivals. Until this year you could see many of them at Floyd Fest. Some local businesses want to get more direct traffic from the fest, but the town is away from the event. They’re not considering the residual traffic they do get from FF. People will always complain about prices of tickets and food. The free market system will sort that out.
To “evolve” really means to adapt and succeed in your environment. FF has done that this year more successfully than any other. The little festival that could has set reasonable attendance goals and come close to them and made an asset of its size by highlighting bands on the verge of success (or worthy of more attention). Through the Workshop Porch stage, Virginia acts that perform traditional music of the region get heard and build their fan base. FF broadens attendee’s horizons, I don’t believe they are trying to serve up the same fare as Bonaroo.
I’m sure none of this has come without a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears by the staff and volunteers. I’m sure mistakes were made, how could any endeavor that big and creative not have hit a pot hole or two? But Kris and Erika are dedicated to putting on a world class event and being a part of our community. They give back plenty as far as I’m concerned. FF success helps raise the entire town’s prospects.
I know Kris and Erika well enough to know they can take criticism and listen to reasoned argument. But before we start bitching about the Parkway stormtroopers (a situation I know Erika tried her best to derail before the fest), and all the things we wanted that weren’t there, we should acknowledge their efforts and success. FF has evolved and I’m confident it will continue to do so as long as there is an audience for what they do.
Doug, I hope you mend quickly and continue to fuel the fires of community discussion!
Erika and Kris have worked so hard to pull all this together,and I am so impressed with them. They have a great team working with them and I hope they all feel that their creative work is appreciated. Our business was down some at the Festival, but we don’t really have Festival crafts, and we mostly go for the exposure and, of course, the good time! Our store in town did very well before, during, and after the fest. I love to see local acts out there, also big names and new acts I’ve never heard of.
Comments are closed.