With a 40 percent chance of rain still in the forecast today and mud and other problems remaining from Friday night’s and Saturday’s drenching, FloydFest is facing a public relations nightmare.
Also emerging as a potentially huge PR problem are questions about why parking this year was not handled by local law enforcement officers, who worked as volunteers in the main parking lots and where the proceeds went to charity.
Retired Virginia State Trooper Andrew O’Connor said in a Facebook post that the operations, run by Sheriff Shannon Zeman and Chief Investigator Jeff Dalton, was terminated by FloydFest. Zeman and Dalton say they left voluntarily and were asked to stay. Before this year’s FloydFest began, organizers promoted the changes made in parking and shuttle services as necessary because of problems from last year but the new lots and the hiring of Mountain Valley Bus Service, which operates school buses for Roanoke, proved inadequate in the opening days of the this year’s festival and urgent calls went out to the Floyd County school system for buses and drivers to take up the slack.
And those are not the only problems that FloydFest faces.
Angry comments like this one from Ellen Arthur of Lexington were posted on FloydFest’s Facebook page:
My friend and I bought 4-day tickets and camped in Delta Lot. Thursday we spent a total of four hours waiting in line to get to and from the site (when the music did not start until 4). Friday, finally, the buses were on duty. But today we left the festival and went home after seeing the access road grow muddier by the hour and almost did not make it out. Alpha lot was even worse, with tractors having to tow out stuck cars. Why such bad planning? There were only 4 bus-drivers working Thursday. We have had a very rainy summer in Virginia; it should have been foreseeable that it might rain, but there was no gravel on any of the parking lot roads and today, last-minute pleas for hay. Hay will do very little to help those mud sties. Why 5 miles between the campgrounds/parking lots and the venue? For the number of revelers and the price of the tickets, this is inexcusably incompetent. Floyd Fest is on its way down.
“Talk about a lack of organization,” said Sam Shinault of Norfolk. “This year’s FloydFest has been more of a disaster and a hassle than it is fun.”
But while complaints appeared to take center stage, the festival still has its supporters amid the chaos.
Said Joseph Bollini of Asheville, North Carolina:
Had to bail this morning as my tent was flooding and I was dreading Sunday exodus. Can’t win ’em all. I still love you guys, you’ve got heart. Best of luck solving parking, a true head scratcher.
From Chris Wilson of Radford:
An awesome fest. I know they had some hiccups on the first day, but the rest of the fest was amazing. I’m sure they’ll have those hiccups cured by next year.
Before the rains came, most of the complaints centered around the cost of parking in the offsite lots and delays in getting to the site.
“Greedy folks threw away a good working system, and got smashing mud bumper cars instead,” said Bill Hairston of Floyd.
From Michelle Stipe Barnes of Georgetown, Kentucky:
I had to wait hours in a line for a bus to finally take me to Floyd Fest after we parked far away. Then when we finally get there to see the Lumineers they don’t even have one big screen so we couldn’t see the band at all. Very disappointed!
A lot of the changes at FloydFest this year came about because of complaints about the handling of large crowds at the end of last year’s festival.
Says Angie Mason, who came again this year because of promises of change from last year:
FloydFest reps said: “can’t control the weather.” But It has been raining on and off all summer. There should have been way more preparation for a downpour. Also I only invested in Floyfest this year made on a promise FloydFest made that there would be zero issues on waiting for buses. And Thursday was a big fail. They can say what they want. They had a year to fix the issues and prepare, but greed took over.
With the offsite parking lots still mired in mud, festival officials Sunday are advising attendees to park at the Floyd County High School lot and take shuttle buses to the site off the Blue Ridge Parkway. When the high school lot fills, attendees will be directed to parking lots at the Floyd County Commerce Center on Christiansburg Pike.
Even those with VIP and on-site parking passes are being told to go to the lots in Floyd.
Some Floyd County residents are demanding to know why county services are being used to support a festival held outside the county. Although FloydFest is considered a local event, and Across the Way Productions, the festival organizers, is a Floyd company, the farmland used for the festival lies just inside the Patrick County border along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
School officials, however, say FloydFest is a lcoal event and when the call for help came they were happy to respond. The school system does expect FloydFest organizers to pay for the drivers’ time and for use of the buses. Help has also come from county residents with four-wheel drive vehicles although some fans stuck in parking lots say they are being gouged by some who want large fees to be towed out of the mud.
FloydFest officials posted the following on Facebook today:
We are working with police, contractors and all available resources to make the exit from all parking areas safe, particularly the Alpha lot. We have tow trucks and tractors available to assist you. That being said, we hope that you decide to extend your stay. We will have shuttles running to all parking lots today.
Stiill, FloydFest organizers have a lot of explaining to do after this year’s festival and its problems.