Floydfest: more than music

Artisans, street performers, yoga classes, festival flags and vendors, there’s something for everyone at most festivals but Floydfest offers a wide variety of extras. From the pickle stand to the giant mechanical bird contraption, there was plenty to see. Vendor row featured lots of great artists booths and plenty of cool festy clothes and tie-dyes. And who could forget the people watching! Festivals and Dead shows are some of the best people watching on the planet.

One of the best vendors there was Black Dog Architectural Salvage out of Roanoke. Even folks from outside western Virginia may know the Black Dog guys from their popular TV show Salvage Dawgs. We saw their booth, took a few pictures and then saw several of the guys enjoying a shady spot beside their camper, complete with outdoor furniture. When I took their picture, they said, “Don’t take our picture. Come join us!” So we sat down and had a nice little visit. Mike Whiteside showed Greg an old racing boat and I checked out their big metal T sign. I learned that Ted Ayers is a Roanoke College grad, just like me so it was like we were old friends. What a friendly bunch! Watch their show.  We see it on HGTV and I think it’s on DIY too. It’s cool to see how they recover quality old building materials and more from buildings about to be torn down.  Their store in Roanoke has the old rocket ship from Lakeside’s Flight Thru Space ride. Greg worked at Lakeside as a teenager!

Throughout the festival, street performers and every variety of interesting characters were walking about: the stilt guy (who turned out to be the cousin of one of my co-workers), light up jellyfishes and one really large fish. Large flags decorated the sky while rocks and wood decorate the landscape in the shape of a treble clef and giant wooden furniture. Greg and I had our picture taken for our anniversary next to the LOVE sign. A great water sculpture provided cool water for the warm days and a foot and shoe washing station once everyone got muddy.

Sadly, the whole scene went downhill with the rain. I saw more mud than I ever thought possible. Did you know mulch turns into thick black mud if given enough rain? We talked to camping friends who had tents washed down the hill, were nearly hit by sliding cars, saw a girl slide under a truck yet not get hurt and another friend got a bad sprain from a muddy fall. Floydfest can’t help the rain, but it had rained a lot before the fest, as evidenced by the muddy onsite parking on day one, before the rain. Onsite parking was closed as were other parking lots, so fans were all shuttling in from Floyd County High school. Big state electronic signs just outside the town of Floyd announced that FF was sold out. These signs should have been repurposed once the festival went into emergency mode and started changing all their parking lots. A sign saying all parking was closed and redirecting everyone to the high school would have saved most fans an hour of travel time and would have kept the festival entry area clear for the buses, the only vehicles really allowed in.

Social media was used heavily for marketing but not as much for communication during the festival. During the mud parking woes, vague posts redirected guests to other parking but the directions were not as clear as they could have been. With multiple lot and some closed or closing, they needed to communicate clearly and frequently. This helps reach your audience and also helps the audience to spread the word for you. Power to the people, so to speak.

And hay, seriously, if you ever do a festival, buy bales of hay and have them on hand. They can be decoration or rustic seating and if it rains, they can be spread across the mud for traction and safety. At FF, when a few bales finally emerged late Saturday evening, all FF had to do was deliver it and the fans pitched in and spread it out. Wish they had done that hours earlier and for much more of the venue.

It’s my opinion that FF has probably outgrown its current site folks parking off site is one thing but camping off site is a drag and precious music time is lost on travel. Then, FF had several offsite parking lots, which all got changed and reworked once the mud developed. By the end, it sounds like they pulled it together a bit and had tractors available to pull cars out. I hope they are seriously reworking their plans for next year.

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