Why so much anger towards FloydFest?

Rain and problems aside, most came to FloydFest for music and fun.
Rain and problems aside, most came to FloydFest for music and fun.
Rain and problems aside, most came to FloydFest for music and fun.

Music festivals like the annual FloydFest event just off the Blue Ridge Parkway each summer generally have a reputation as laid-back gatherings where peace, tranquility and love supersede anger, hostility and stress of modern times.

Not so this year when parking problems and complications from heavy downpours left many FloydFest participants anything but laid back and tranquil.

Delays in shuttle transfers from the outlying parking lots created anger from those who said they missed the shows they came to see because they couldn’t get to the site on time.

Long-simmering hostility from some who see FloydFest as “just another hippie event” surfaced over reports that the festival took over control of the parking lots this year from the operation run by law enforcement officials who used the lots to raise money for charity.

Drenching downpours turned parking lots into mud zones where cars slid into each other, got stuck or hand to be abandoned until tow vehicles could get in to clear the area.  Cascading water turned camping areas into wetlands and left layers upon layers of mud in the festival site.

Some county residents expressed anger and disdain over the dispatching of local school buses and drivers to help in shuttling FloydFest patrons to an from emergency-established lots at Floyd County High School and the county’s Commerce Center.  Inaccurate rumors claimed the county was providing the buses and drivers for free or that local vendors were shut out of this year’s festival.  Such rumors thrived on Facebook but they weren’t true.

County school superintendent Kevin Harris made it clear to Festival officials that fees would be charged for use of the buses and the drivers would have to be paid by event organizers.  He also insisted that the festival pay local bus drivers who were dispatched to the festival grounds Thursday to drive buses for Mountain Valley Transportation but were turned away because the bus operators said they weren’t insured because they weren’t employees of Mountain Valley.

FloydFest will provided its perspective in an article I’m preparing for Thursday’s edition of The Floyd Press.  So will local officials who have pro and con opinions on what happened.

Yes, there were problems and FloydFest will have to deal with the issues caused by those problems but perhaps people should wait until all the facts are in before passing public judgment on an event that has become a permanent part of the Floyd scene.

Some festival volunteers say they were insulted, cursed at and threatened by upset patrons.  Others report dealing with a vast majority of attendees who took the difficulties in stride and thanked them for their help.

There are many stories out there about FloydFest 12 — some good, some bad and some that raise questions that require detailed answers.  We need to hear those stories and explanation and then examine what did and did not happen before reaching any conclusions or passing any judgments.


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16 thoughts on “Why so much anger towards FloydFest?”

  1. First off, in spite of the weather Floyd Fest was a lot of fun.

    I’d even go so far as to say that given a positive attitude even slopping around in 4-6 inches of mud on Saturday was worth the otherwise great time.

    However, as un-hippie-like as it is, I can understand why some folks would be angry at what transpired on Saturday.

    It wasn’t the rain. Rain happens. We all know that. We don’t live in the Sahara Desert. What angered a lot of folks was the almost total lack of preparedness the Floyd Fest Committee had for the rain.

    FloydFest may have a lot of peace and love in its theme, but it is also a multi-million dollar economic venture in the greatest spirit of capitalism. Nothing wrong with that. So, when people pay money for an event, arrange their vacations, time off from work, they expect a certain amount in return.

    Hind sight is 20/20….but at this point, looking forward….it is obvious that the fields chosen for parking were not geologically fit to withstand parking in the rain, without major changes. So, to start with, let’s find other places to park. Sugar coat it with peace and love all you want, my car had some difficulty navigating a hill in parking lot Alpha on Thursday, two days before the deluge.

    It should also be obvious, unless we insist on believing that the Emperor is not really naked, that the festival grounds themselves should have been much more adequately prepared for the rain. Festivals across the country are prepared for rain a lot better. We had a thimble full of preparation when a gallon wasn’t enough.

    Perhaps the worst part of the mess was the almost total breakdown in communication. People were told to just drive around in a “holding pattern”, many were not told about the alternate plans to park and shuttle from Floyd HS, etc, there was scant if any signeage directing cars where to go.

    Perhaps the most laughably insane brainiac nonsense was the decision to post information on Facebook…..Earth To FloydFest: most of us with smart phones in the area didn’t have reception and even if we were addicted to Facebook we couldn’t read the communications. Apparently, many of the parking attendants didn’t get the message either.

    The committee should learn from its mistakes. There should be a contingency plan for rain figured out months ahead.

    It would be a good idea, too, to let the public know in advance what the contingency plan would be for rain, such as parking in Floyd/shuttle.

    The event looked like the committee woke up at 4AM, saw it was raining, and at that time figured out they had a problem and started scratching their heads. And by the time a plan was hatched a lot of folks, who had paid good money, had given up and gone home. Not to mention those whose vehicles were stranded in a mud pile.

    Peace and love is fine. Next time, results matter.

  2. I was there for all 4 days and had a blast! Even with the rain, mud, and transportation issues the music was great, the majority of people were super friendly and caring. There were acts of kindness everywhere I looked. A young man helped my carry my bags across alpha lot on Saturday so my wife could head home early….he then helped get us unstuck from the mud…Blessings to him..I stayed on to Sunday and am glad I did. It’s all in what I focused on…I chose to enjoy every second and focus on the good ( and there was plenty) and cruise through the patient times….Here’s to looking forward to next year’s Floydfest!

  3. This was my first Floydfest and I experienced it from a different perspective than most. I was part of the staff that was in charge of the off-site parking and gear shuttle operations from Thursday until late Monday afternoon. We were in the eye of the hurricane. It was an exhausting, overwhelming and very challenging situation and it breaks my heart to read all the negative feedback that resulted from it. We adapted the best we could to the constantly changing conditions with all the resources we had to work with. We were a team that worked together very hard to meet the needs of everyone parked and camped in the lots.
    But you know…after everything that happened during my first Floydfest, I walked away on top of the world knowing that I was able to help people that couldn’t help themselves and the overwhelming amount of gratitude they expressed for our relentless efforts.
    After a little rest- I would do it all over again.
    Thank you ATWP.

  4. Everyone learns from experience. The festival has been fortunate in previous years. This is the first year there has been this much rain during the festival. The ground was already unusually wet due to a rainy spring and early summer season. I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated the degree of preparation necessary to cope with this year’s conditions, simply because no one had previously tried to put that many people and vehicles up in those fields and pastures previously under similar circumstances.

    Most of the people criticizing and making suggestions focus totally on the four days of the festival and the comfort of the festival patrons. They tend to forget that most of the year these fields are not parking lots and/or campgrounds.

    Other people have an interest in the property. If I were the farmer who had agreed to allow my fields to be used as a parking lot, today I’d be asking myself, “How much is it going to cost to restore my pastures and erosion control after the damage caused by people trying to get their cars out in the mud?” I hope he/she had the foresight to put something in their agreement with Floydfest that allows them to charge the costs of restoration to the festival. Permanent improvements that would transform the fields into a better parking lot during an occasional rainy season, may have a negative impact on the farmer (and his neighbors) use and enjoyment of their property during the rest of the year. Those interests have to be accommodated when planning for the future.

    I’m not trying to discourage good suggestions that might make the festival better in the future. It’s just that every suggestion has to be examined from a number of different viewpoints.

    Personally, I think that the festival should consider having some parking in the town of Floyd and a shuttle from the town of Floyd every year. Once the parking had been shifted to high school, etc, the comment I heard as often as any complaint were people with four day passes, who said it actually was more convenient for them to park in the town of Floyd and ride up to the festival. A lot of people (myself included) buy four day passes, but don’t stay on site. Obviously Floyd county, the town of Floyd and the local residents would be affected by shifting the “commuters” parking to Floyd, but potentially something could be worked out that would be a win for everyone concerned. Certainly moving the “commuter” park would eliminate most of the coming and going on the pasture lots.

  5. I have attended all but the first Floydfest. Floydfest was one of the reasons I moved here. I have a spot in my heart for the festival and it greatly pains me to see where it has arrived after all these years. I offer these remarks as an attempt to be positively critical.
    Floydfest is too big. The last 5-7 thousand attendees has stretched the infrastructure too far and the site and its related pieces are not capable of delivering the festival the way it should. Onsite camping and parking is inadequate for the numbers. Except for a few new buildings, capital improvements to the site are close to non existent. All roads and critical pathways need to be dug up and filled with gravel with drainage, culverts, diversions, geotextile underlayments, in other words : water management. For anyone to say that the amount of rain that came down was somehow not forseeable is not thinking very hard. Rain happens, sometimes in large doses, and it is not unpredictable. The pathways on the festival grounds should have been made semi permanant long ago. It is not difficult. Remove topsoil, lay fabric, fill with gravel, cover with mulch. Direct water with rip rap filled swales, an occasional culvert, ditching the high sides, it’s not rocket science.
    The parking lots were and will continue to be a disaster. What if the rain had happened Thursday morning?? Would the festival had been cancelled? No is the answer. But, most folks would never have got to the site, period. When I drove into the alpha lot on Thursday at 1PM, I said, “Wow, this is a rough site. What if it rains?” Why the people that run Floydfest did not ask this question is beyond me, but they should have, and it is their lack of foresite that they did not. When I arrived onsite at 6PM I was exausted. The entire transport system is a mess. No, it is not a mess, it is shameful. To put families through this ordeal is just not fair. Spending an entire day in lines and enduring this clusterf#ck of a halfbaked bad dream just forces families to abandon the possibility of Floydfest and live with the memories of the old days when things went well and everything just worked. After last year one might think that lessons had been learned and resources would have been spent, but other than hiring a few extra buses I don’t see where a large capital improvement budget was deployed.
    Yeah, rain happens, but that does not excuse the wasting of huge amounts of time and energy and money that the patrons of Floydfest expended. There is an imlied merchantability in buying a Floydfest ticket, and saying you did the best you could does not meet the standards of a merchant to his customer. Floydfest as a musical event is a wonderful thing. I enjoyed all my time onsite. I am lucky I live close by and can attend. But Floydfest has become a mess. It is not being run well. Bad decisions have been made, and accountability is lacking. I hope things change. They have to, or folks like me will just give up and abandon Floydfest to the 20 year olds who seem willing to put up with being mistreated. In all good spirit, peace.

  6. This was my second Floyd Fest and it won’t be the last. Yeah it rained it rained on me at many outdoor shows and I am ready for it. I thought the Festival went off very well, all things considered, some friends were upset with the shuttles, just the amount of time waiting. It seems that some lessons should be learned, about just one main entrance and exit. The bottle neck was at the exit after the main shows. It seemed that not all transportation and loading/unloading was in sync, no real good plans. My only minor complaint was with the Delta lot camping store when they blasted music through big speakers into the campers well into the late night and into the AM. We wanted to sleep at night and see music at the fest, not be blasted until 3:30AM. Next year, if it happens again, we will fix it ourselves.
    All in all, still a great show.

  7. I’m glad I got to experience FloydFest in the early years, because it was probably the best festival in the country. I admit that I haven’t attended in years, but from everything I read and hear, it appears the Fest may have gotten too big for its britches. This was somewhat predictable. Even the music lineup itself has trended toward “hipster” and mainstream in the past few years as opposed to the early vision of down-home, grassroots music and culture.

    Floyd itself is a beautiful, magical place to behold. But I think the FloydFest organizers need to ask themselves if they are keeping with the spirit and philosophy of the original vision or turning into another money-making Bonnaroo-type venture…just another “hippie” fest…

  8. This was my first Floyd Fest, and unless some major changes are announced, it will be my last. Like several people have said above, rain happens, and we patrons know that, plan for it, and don’t really mind it–that is, if the festival is prepared for it as well. I don’t mind dancing in the rain and mud, but when your gear is flash flooded down a ravine…different story. I had thought that the parking situation and wait for shuttles was ludicrous on Thursday, but it was nothing compared to the catastrophe it became on Saturday. I had to leave early because all our gear was ruined by the storm, only to find out they were no longer shuttling us to our parking lot, but we would be dropped off within “walking distance” to our car…needless to say, it was quite a haul carrying the sodden remains of our camping stuff, slipping and sliding through the unchecked mud. There was no staff on site to assist the MANY of us who were helplessly mired in the mud (I drive a Prius) and when I walked all the way back to talk to a sheriff, he wished me good luck and gave me a tow truck phone number. Really???
    I had heard so many good things about this festival and was super excited to attend; however, this festival has very obviously outgrown itself and whomever is running it is woefully out of his/her element. The space is simply not adequate to accommodate the numbers of patrons, and the parking situation is a complete disaster. Epic fail, Floyd Fest. Better luck next year.

  9. Some of you folks just need to admit it – you were part of the problem. You showed up at a mountain-top festival unprepared for primitive camping, and when you got a good soaking, you freaked out, packed up en-mass, and mired into the parking fields. When adversity comes your way it often pays to just hunker down and summon up some grit. Just saying, that’s the mountain way. By Sunday afternoon we were back to sunny weather.

  10. My husband and I have attended all 12 festivals and look forward to it each year. Some people are commenting that the principals should have been aware of the fact that it has been a rainy Spring/Summer and should have somehow changed plans that had, no doubt, been made many months ago. I’m sure finding parking for thousands of cars in close proximity to Floyd is not an easy task. Further, it seems to me concert goers should have planned ahead and dressed for rain. After all, everyone has access to weather reports. Concert attendees certainly had plenty of time, and with a little thought and planning could have avoided being bogged down in the mud…..like packing a pair of boots!!! We are in our late 60’s and I have never heard so many young/middle age complainers. Sometimes things just don’t happen the way they should. Just get over it….it’s one week-end. No one died, so what’s the big deal??? Perhaps you should only attend indoor concerts in cities where there are covered parking lots, subways and sidewalks. Maybe Floydfest just isn’t for you.

  11. We were there for the whole thing, arriving Thursday to find people waiting for hours (spoke to several who claimed 3 hour waits) to check equipment, only to wait more than an hour ( we waited about 90 minutes) for a shuttle.

    The parking and equipment check system, touted by the organizers as a vast improvement over prior years was, was so clearly a disaster waiting to happen that we read about it we booked a hotel room in Radford. For the hour drive each way we avoided wasting many more hours frustrated and angry.

    No one can control the weather and it rained like crazy Friday night into Saturday (on top of a record wet year. Those of us who go to festivals take our chances on the weather, but the new parking and check system was even worse than it first sounded, and routing thousands of cars over miles of dirt roads to park on steep hillsides was idiotic! Chaos waiting to happen -and with the weather, it did.

    Despite all this, I give credit to the organizers for stepping up and trying to fix the problems. I suspect when all is added up they will lose money on FF12. They probably deserve to lose on it, but I hope not so much that FF goes belly up.

    FF is a cultural icon, though admittedly not for everyone. It deserves to be perpetuated. The organizers seem to be adaptable, but lacking in their ability to “see around corners”. I hopeFF 13 is better than ever, and have the following suggestions:

    1. Go back to the old parking/ shuttle setup. It worked and it gave back to the local community.

    2. Pay all the extra costs for buses, drivers, parking, towing, damages to parking fields and county roads cheerfully – don’t turn it into a public spectacle, or worse – lawsuits. This has big potential to become a PR disaster that will last until next year. Further souring community relations will cost more than any savings that will come from trying to minimize these costs.

    3. If you can, make donations to the local charities that benefitted in the past from parking/shuttle revenues.

    4. Book better top level acts next year. A lot has been said about the lackluster lineup this year. Personally, I heard some wonderful acts and great musicianship, but the quality was several levels below FF 11.

    5. Organizers should stop spinning the PR and be straightforward about what went wrong and why. Everyone saw that when things went sideways te organizers did everything they could to correct the problems – unfortunately it was too late to fix the parking issues. My advice is that if they try to put positive spin on the problems, it will just further infuriate folks who love FF and will get over their frustration if given the time and a sincere apology and promise to learn and do better next time.

  12. I’m not a Floyd resident. I did not attend Floyd Fest. I know my are asking themselves, “Why the heck are you posting then woody?”

    1992 I attended Lollapalooza at Blossom Music Center near Cleveland, Ohio. I know ya’ll aren’t familiar with the area, but Blossom is a major outdoor amphitheater and this show had big rock acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, major acts of the time.

    About half way through the show, Pearl Jam starts pumping out the start of their song “Alive” and and the sky just opened up with a major thunderstorm. The entire lawn of the amphitheater turned into a mud pit in a matter of minutes. Everyone became covered in mud from head to toe. Mud slides were formed like dirty brown “Slip & Slides” and some of the band members came out and slid down them. It was one giant mess.

    It was also FUN!

    We didn’t have the cell phones and all the crap people carry around nowadays. If we got wet, muddy and all disheveled, no one cared. Maybe we were too high to care?

    Leaving the show, we got stuck in the mud. I sat and waited with my friends for about two hours. In that time we saw 4-5 accidents caused by people sliding through the mud. We slid when we finally decided to leave, but there wasn’t anyone left to hit, so no problem. That’s why we waited.

    What’s the point?

    My mud experience happened at a major concert venue near a large city. This venue and the show organizers get paid millions of dollars and had the same problem as FloydFest. Give your FloydFest organizers a break. What they do is nothing short of a miracle.

    I’ll promise you all something I promise my Cubscouts when ever we go camping and you best remember it, I guarantee there will be weather!

  13. The simplest solution to these “problems” is to limit ticket sales to a level that is appropriate for the festival site. Our friends have been at this long enough to have established an estimable break-even point. I would suggest setting capacity around 8,000, scaling back activities at a few of the “stages” and jacking up that ticket price to cover the costs of doing business.

    I would address the issue of the impact that weather can have at an outdoor event, but I can’t seem to get through a sentence without using the term “pansie”…so I’ll leave that one to those of you who are still learning.

    By any rational assessment the folks at FloydFest have been successful at creating and developing the best “annual” musical event in the area.
    It’s become an issue of stewardship but there’s a lot of resistance to shifting away from the growth model.

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