As FloydFest 18-Hot fades away, so may I

Sunday winds down FloydFest 18-Wild on the site that straddles the Floyd-Patrick County line just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

On Thursday, my photos and story about this year’s event appear in the Floyd Press on page one and continues inside over two pages of photos.

As I look over several thousand images, several videos and stories about this event over more than a decade, I realize that it has occupied a lot of time and effort in July of each year since the first assignment to cover it in 2005.

An article written last week detailed how much coverage of musical events, festivals and the like have occupied much of my professional life over the past 50+ years beginning in 1965 with photographing Herman’s Hermits at Victory Stadium in Roanoke.

I spent a decade covering the Mississippi River Festival on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville just across the river from St. Louis from 1969 to 1979. Those concerts, which played through the summer of each year, gave me a chance to photograph and interview entertainers like The Who, The Eagles, Three Dog Night, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin and many others.

Music brought me back to Floyd County in 2002 after a nearly 40-year absence to document the Friday Night Jamboree. Amy and I lived and worked in the national capital region of Washington, DC, at the time, and we chose to move here in late 2004.

Since returning, we have shot enough photos and video to fill more than 100 terabytes of computer disk space. Video work displayed on Vimeo shows more than 86,000 views of 383 videos produced 14 years.

The beauty and music of Martha Spencer of the Whitetop Mountain Band.  This informal portrait of her, who at FloydFest in 2014, is my favorite image from the thousands of ones captured over the past 14 years.
(Copyright © 2014 Doug Thompson Visuals)

If you add the photos shot over the past half-century, we would need to add space to our home to house the negatives and slides.  Many of those fill storage space we still rent in Northern Virginia while the bulk stays in the archives of publications where I have worked.

My cameras have captured news events small and large, including racial strife in our country, changes in our nation like 9/11, American leaders and those who control over nations.

I’ve tried to document successes and failures of many through words and images for more than five decades, from capturing a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan outside of Farmville, VA, age 11 to destruction in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Music, however, is a recurring theme that began at the concert of Herman’s Hermits at the now-gone Victory Stadium in 1965 to the five days of FloydFest scheduled to end late this evening.

When FloydFest ends tonight, I will need to decide if I will continue to cover it in the future.  At age 70, the arthritis and injuries that hobble my knees and legs limit their ability to traverse the rolling terrain that hosts the events.  The legs gave out on the second day of FloydFest this year and I had to limit the amount of time I could spend on them for the rest of the event. The photos and story for Thursday’s Floyd Press could well be my last coverage of FloydFest.  I plan to talk to editor Wanda Combs about cutting back.

As long as health allows, I still hope to cover courts and the county board of supervisors for the paper, along with photography of sporting events.  I will still shoot photos and video of local music and events, including the Friday Night Jamboree and other activities that do not place too much physical strain on aging joints.

I’ve worked full-time, beginning at age 15 — 55 years ago.  I own and manage a political news website with an international following as well as a local site that covers Floyd County and surrounding areas.  I speak on media matters at two local universities each year and appear at a journalism/political center in Washington each fall. I still write and shoot pictures for newspapers at a time when they are reducing staffs and cutting back.

My 50+ years working has given me a lot of adventures, more success that I probably deserve and a full life that I cherish.  To continue doing what I love, I must cut back in some areas.

The Grateful Dead played music from their then new album American Beauty at the Mississippi River Festival where I photographed and reviewed their concert back in the ’70s.

On Truckin’, on the popular singles from that album, they sang:

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me,
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

That this has been and let’s hope it continues.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse