A public relations problem for FloydFest

072813mudWith 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.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. “some fans stuck in parking lots say they are being gouged by some who want large fees to be towed out of the mud.”
    These folks were gouged by the organizers long before the rain and 4X4s showed up.
    I want to see what they pay Floyd County for the bus support and use of the high school lot. Hope there was some contract in place in advance….hahaha. And surely there will be clean up costs at the high school lot too!

  2. The rain came and we left. Left early Saturday morning from Delta, already messy and little traffic at that point, had not even stopped raining, but you could see what was coming. The FloydFest experience has always been much more than just great music,good beer and food but lending a hand to strangers, setting up camp together, helping unload if you had hands free, giving up your seat to someone else and very importantly the festival directly (vs. indirectly) helping the community. Doing good can be a successful business model. Based on the comments posted here, worse than mud, transportation delays etc., all bad, would be the loss of the festivals kind soul of lending a hand. Hope it can be salvaged. Time to move on from Rise and Shine and get back to Heart and Soul.

  3. Everything we do has a learning curve; hopefully FF has learned a lesson. Keep the charities and get more buses. Of course biggest is not always bestest, it’s OK to back off on the number of attendees.

  4. Our first FloydFest. Got there Friday and had an incredible time. There wasn’t a thing I would have changed about it. We parked down (and I mean down) in the Bravo lot – when I saw where we had to park I figured if it started raining hard that it would be a pain to get out even with my all wheel drive. The whole east coast has been drenched for the past few months and at some point nowhere for the water to go, right? We finally went to bed in our tent around 3 a.m. and rain was coming down really hard. Next morning, bleary eyed and looking for some caffeine, rain still bludgeoning the area. It was really, really hard to pack up and go, but go I did cuz I knew that the parking lot was going to be a mother and probably not safe for everyone trying to get out. I can’t wait to go back next year but I will prepare differently – I’m sure the organizers will do the same. Please don’t fold up your tents on FF!!!

  5. I am shocked that the schools are NOT charging for the use of these lots. That is totally outrageous! Next time the school system wants more money I’m gonna remind them of this stupid decision to NOT charge the going rate for these lots…..which should be the 200K the local charities used to earn for providing these services!!

  6. Ellen Arthur of Lexington’s comment about the number of bus drivers is not true. I was volunteering at the Delta Lot Thursday and there were a lot more than 4 busses running (though obviously not enough). I am not going to try to defend Across the Way or Floydfest, but there isn’t some big paved parking lot for people to park in near the site. Pasture parking is likely the only way to go and there aren’t a lot of flat ones near Meadows of Dan.

    As for the Chateau Morisette lot-I have heard the falling out was between ATW and the Chateau Morisette management, but I have no idea what really happened and I think there is a lot of speculation going on. While there are plenty of legitimate complaints about the situation, I do think some of the negativity coming from locals is a reaction to Floyd being known as a “hippy community.” This festival brings a lot of money to local businesses and I think using an empty school parking lot to park cars is a minor sacrifice for Floyd County to make.

    • For the record Chateau Morrisette dd offer there lot to Floydfest and the money made was going to be given back to the local charities that would be helping with parking the cars and Floydfest did not want to do that….So giving back to Floyd was not necessary, but as soon as they got into trouble with the weather the first people they call on is Floyd…I think if they are going to have there music festival in Patrick, the next time they should call for help from the Patrick County community, if they don’t need to support Floyd Groups, then we should not support them……..yes I am a local born and raised, can they say that????

  7. Top lies Floyd Fest told its attendees this year:

    -coolers will be checked (with the numbers of attendees, this is well nigh impossible. Most people seemed to know that already and brought their beer, glass, and drugs–see below)
    -no outside alcohol (it was all over the place, and in glass bottles too)
    -no drugs (right, pot is one thing, but the glassy-eyed festival goers stumbling past police made it clear that they were turning a blind eye)
    -Not So Quiet Camping (why ON EARTH would the not so quiet camping not be near the stage that has bands and drum circles playing all night long in the Global Village? It was just impossibly loud and this was not made clear at all.)
    -“gear shuttle” (Thursday was a HUGE FAIL. Three-hour waits for gear shuttle, terrible system with tags, then another 1-2 hour wait for the shuttle.)
    -“stop the sprawl” and “12×12 campsite” (sorry, guys, free love and all that, but if you have a camp kitchen and deck area next to your huge tent for two people while other tents are on top of each other, then you are a giant d-bag)
    -room for anyone with a ticket to camp (no way. Not even close. What a danger to have people in so close together.)

    Positivity is awesome. I love that people are willing to give multiple tries for the organizers to get it right. But when you think about the values associated with these artists and the music and modern hippie culture, and then hold that up against the cost and poor decision making by those in charge, it shows that capitalism is still the winner here. The millions of dollars that a small group of people was making could easily have subsidized truckloads of gravel to solve those problems on Saturday and Sunday in the Alpha lot.

  8. While Ellen Arther has a good point about the money brought into Floyd County, we still have to clean up the mess at the high school! I have never seen such slobs in Floyd. As to the charities, well it is a loss, but like our politicians, they like the sound of money at the event.
    Besides, trying to get around in Floyd on the last 4 days was a zoo! And no I am not a hippy!?:)

  9. What an expensive weekend. Sat and sun passes at $155 each, would love to see the improvements made with the customer experience at the focus when improvements are made. If we didnt have a subaru NO JOKE we would be stuck in that Alpha lot. How about trying to eliminate lines for the customer next year huh? That would seem like a reasonable ideal future state for the floyd fester….. Focus on making a waitless free feeling experience…. You can do it.

  10. As the Delta Lot Camp Site staff hosts my family wants to thank all of our campers for their love and patronage during Floyd Fest 12. We scrambled hard as a team to quickly resolve shuttle issues on Thursday and by 6:30 PM the lot was cleared so everone would get to see the Lumineers on main stage. Special thanks to the Harwell Grice band who played twice the length of their gig to keep the people in line entertained. We also passed out water and programs to help pass the time. Although the rain did present challenges many locals teamed up to tractor tow people out to the main road. All campers are able to stay tonight and we have extended the music program. Thank you for your caution, patience, and attention to safety which prevented accidents and injuries. Your smiles, good humor and laughter helped us all make this a very special time.

  11. Sorry to say it cause I love these events but if you can’t get people from Point A to Point B (and back again), aka: basic transportation; provide decent hygiene facilities; and plan for contingencies (rain) – it is time to find a new hobby. This event should be an embarrassment for who ever is attempting to run it, the local community and local government. Had the weather been any worse we’re talking borderline catastrophe. My primary thought thru the whole thing was WHO is in charge of this disaster and where are they? Bands should think twice about associating themselves with FF and local government should do the same if they are willing to accept the responsibility for the safety of 15,000 people. Thanks to all the volunteers, bus drivers, vendors, bands, and music lovers who did their best to be polite and understanding and make it work despite the adversity and lack of basic planning.

  12. All of this comes down to two things: patience and preparation.

    This was my first FloydFest and I had a blast. Even waiting in line for the shuttles. Just make new friends, pass the time sharing stories and libations!

    PRO-TIP 1: ALWAYS SECURE YOUR RAINFLY You never know when precipitation will start. And if it does start, your stuff will be soaked before you can get your rainfly out and over the tent.

    PRO-TIP 2: ALWAYS PACK A PONCHO AND/OR A RAINJACKET
    It’s better to have it and not need it, rather than to need it and not have it. Weather forecasting isn’t 100%, especially in the mountains.

    I left Sunday AFTER Old Crow. They hired some guys with tractors and bulldozers to scrape away the saturated surface and leaving a dry, dense mud that was easy to drive on. I saw the Alpha Lot that morning (having woken up, packed my gear, and gotten it to my car)) and am glad that I was patient throughout the day. The antsy masses were gone and I was able to just coast down the hill and ease on out of the lot.

    Remember, the FF organizers are people too. They want us all to have a good time. Sometimes they make a decision that goes horribly wrong, as we all do, but it’s not done intentionally to screw patrons out of money.

  13. Got to FF about 5 on Thursday. Waited in line 2 hours. Had to set up camp as it was getting dark and it wasn’t exactly easy to find a spot to camp but I found one nonetheless. All told it took me 4 hours from parking to finished camp and then we were ready to see music. And we were totally fine with it. Every musical set I saw this weekend blew me away. You left on Saturday because your tent leaked? Ooooh, make sure you get FloydFest to reimburse you for your leaky tent. $35 buys you a waterproof tent at Wal-Mart apparently, because mine worked fine. How do you people expect to camp for a weekend and not be prepared for rain?

    There weren’t enough spots for people to camp onsite? Really? Maybe you don’t have legs then, because if you came in on Thursday night or Friday all you had to do was WALK some and find one. I had a good spot with easily 3 or 4 empty spots near us that went unclaimed all weekend because no one was willing to walk the 100 yards down hill to get there.

    You know how long it took to get a Toyota Prius out of the Alpha lot yesterday? About sixty seconds — in the rain. I know people got stuck and perhaps FF should have planned out parking contingencies a little better, but if you really wanted to come out for a weekend and enjoy the music, the only person that stood in your way was yourself.

    If you couldn’t have a good time at FloyFest 12 because of a wet tent, a shuttle wait or your shoes got a little too muddy, then I would advise you to attend a concert in your nearest city, at the big amphitheater with concrete and seats and a shelter and $11 beers, and leave the REAL festival-going to us folks who can handle it.

  14. “Even those with VIP and on-site parking passes are being told to go to the lots in Floyd.”

    For future FF attendees: DO NOT buy a couple of $700 VIP passes and stay off-site. This weekend proved that access to on-site parking is not guaranteed. Getting on-site only to be turned away, forced to drive back to Floyd and bus into the site ensured we missed several of the acts we paid to see. This was our first FF and I doubt we will be back.

  15. Here is my issue: we came as a family. We spent a lot of money to stay in the delta (electric lot). We got to see 3 songs by the lumineers, that’s it. The staff/volunteers/Floyd county folks/attendees were nice! Great! Friendly! However, the “planning” in the event was a disaster and a total waste if hard earned money. I couldn’t justifiably take my (special needs) daughter out in the mud to “walk” (I.e. fall) at the festival.

    We are campers. You always plan for the worst when camping. It seems like the organizers didn’t have an “Emergancy plan” in place. I’m incredibly disappointed in missing the bands I wanted to see, having my daughter get the “festival experience” and wasting (again) a lot of money.

  16. Folks, lets all step back and take a deep breath. Floyd Fest is a great event that is not only fun to attend but also very beneficial to our local economy. This year the organizers had a lot thrown at them with the wet conditions and I’m sure there are any number of things they will improve before next year. Was it perfect this year, no but while there may have been mistakes there were also a lot of things done right. The bands were amazing, the food and beer were good, the volunteers ( of which I was one) did a good job and the festival attendees I interacted with seemed to be having a wonderful time.
    I fully expect the organizers of Floyd Fest will make the necessary adjustments before next year. As an member of the board of supervisors in Floyd Co I have personal experience working with Floyd Fest on issues that needed addressing. This past year there were meetings with county officials and Floyd Fest over ways to improve emergency response after concerns serviced. Floyd Fest made necessary changes that this year were beneficial to all involved. My point is that these people are not stupid, as issues arise they work to come up with solutions. This issue simply was a bit more noticeable than others in the past, I feel certain it will be fully addressed.
    Some have questioned the use of county and school property and buses. Today I have been assured by both Floyd Fest and our school superintendent that Floyd Fest will be paying a reasonable fee for the use of the buses. As far as the use of the commerce center for parking I had several concerns that have been addressed. First was there an insurance policy covering the property and second was there benefit to the people and business of Floyd Co. Going forward we need to do some planning with Floyd Fest to better set the conditions if the site is needed again. I have asked our chairman if we could review our policy on this and have expressed to Floyd Fest the need to work together for better planning.
    As I have said earlier, Floyd Fest brings a lot of good to our little county. When we see problems lets work together to make things better.

  17. First time at FF. I will definitely come back. I stayed in Delta lot and a car with all wheel drive. We had no problems getting in and out. We actually left the lot Saturday morning and spent some time in town. We decided to leave Sunday morning but only because I’m from Indiana and had to work early Monday morning. The music was fantastic and the people were awesome. It makes me sad to hear about all the people that were so disappointed.

  18. Second year at floydfest. Paid 150 for 4 day passes when they went on sale stayed at the Delta Lot. Arrived at 2 on Thursday. Waited 20 minutes to get in lot. Got a great spot in the woods that were beautifully lit with Christmas style lighting. Got in about a 40 minute wait for bus met nice people stayed late at the feat on a perfect night. Friday another perfect day but 0 line for busses either way. Saturday went to fest. Got muddy. One of my kids was getting ill so we left around dinner time. Drove 8 hours home to jersey. Got double our money’s worth. It is the best festival. Been there twice. Won’t ever miss it. Thanks to everyone who worked the fest. Beautiful town. Wish I lived there. Sometimes it is sunny. Sometimes it rains. Maybe that should be on the ticket so people know. Also saw very few “hippies”. Saw lots of really nice people.

  19. I haven’t heard this much whining in years.
    Obviously [Woodstock] was filled with hardier people than you. I don’t remember anyone bitching about the rain back then. In fact i believe they danced in it. Toughen up people. This was an outdoor event. And yes Mother Nature ain’t always sweet and wonderful.
    This was growing pains pure and simple. Remember how everyone complained in years past about the long lines of cars backing up at the gates? Well, FF took care of that issue… Has anyone thanked FF for trying a completely new idea that was very ballsy? I doubt it.
    The problems were many, but they all got resolved. Many lessons were learned that will be applied to next years event.
    Don’t believe me? The engineer that designed the satellite lots was camping at Delta Lot. He saw this system break down first hand. And he fixed it as it was occuring. Now he will work these contigencies into next years plan. Why? Because he is a professional, and thats how he works.
    Lets not hold grudges. Grudges are for the non-musical-loving folk.

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