FloydFest 6 concluded Sunday with a rousing concert by Railroad Earth. Four days of festival are now in the books.
Crowds appeared lighter than normal to some observers who have attended the last several events. Festival organizers predicted a turnout of 12,000 over the four days and they reported pre-ticket sales were 20 percent higher than normal. Some felt Saturday night’s turnout was one of the largest crowds yet. (UPDATE — 07/31: Erika Johnson, co-owner of the event, puts the four-day crowd at 11,000 including volunteers and staff.)
FloydFest is a firmly-entrenched part of the summer music festival scene and a number of attendees said they have been to most, if not all, of the previous events.
But there are some signs that FloydFest needs to evolve. Some longtime attendees say there is a sameness to the festival, that is is too repetitious. Others complained about the lack of "big-name" acts this year. Bluegrass great Sam Bush (above) was the big name this year and is appearance came on opening night before a crowd of about 1,500. I talked with some attendees who say new festivals springing up on the circuit offer more variety and vary their programming more from year to year. When the format becomes familiar it’s hard not to walk around with a feeling of "been here, done that."
Organizers have worked long and hard to steer the festival away from his "hippie" image and towards a more family-oriented event. There are many more things for the family to do but many of those kids come from the same alternative lifesytlers who gave the festival its "hippie" sensibilities and, for many, the festival will always be a mini-Woodstock. There’s no right or wrong answer for this. It depends on your perspective.
Some long-time attendees say the crowd this year was different — younger, more rowdy and less "family friendly" than in past years. A number of fights broke out among the power drinkers. Police and organizers were quick to show troublemakers the door, which is good because some other summer festivals have been ruined when they gained a reputation for rowdiness.
And the festival needs to find a way to deal with the National Park Service’s desire to turn the festival into a revenue generator by bringing in their "Criminal Interdiction Team" to harass festival goers and hand out tickets like candy.
Some of these problems can be attributed to growing pains. Others to the politics of the time. But they are problems that Kris and Erika will have to face and resolve if FloydFest is to continue to be a mainstay of the community. I’m confident they will. Many predicted FloydFest 1 would be the first and last event. Predictions of doom followed other years. Next year’s festival dates are already set and tickets go on sale Dec. 1.