~ The following was published in The Floyd Press, July 23, 2009
Judging by pre-ticket sales, the Floydfest world music and art festival may just be recession proof, say festival founders Kris Hodges and Erika Johnson. “In hard times, we need more than ever to recreate, to camp, and experience music,” Johnson said.
“Some venues that have relied on corporate dollars might not be faring as well in this recession,” Hodges added. “Floydfest has relied on hard work, community involvement, and imagination.”
With home vegetable gardens, down-to-earth vacationing, and personal independence on the rise, this year’s festival theme “Revival” reflects that trend, Johnson points out.
The four day music festival (July 23- 26) located at milepost 170.5 on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is kicking off its 8th year today with a multi-cultural musical lineup that spans the range of genres from bluegrass, folk, afrobeat, funk, old-time, reggae, cajun, jam rock, Americana, and more.
Non-stop performances alternating on seven stages will include Grammy award winning Blues Traveler and a gospel group from Barcelona, Spain. American Dumpster and William Walter, two popular Virginia bands that have played to enthusiastic audiences at the Sun Hall in Floyd will be returning to the Floydfest stage, as will festival favorite Donna the Buffalo (Saturday at 5:00 p.m.). Local musicians include Mac and Jenny Traynham, The Jugbusters, Blue Mule, No Strings Attached, Dry Hill Draggers, and Kat Mills. New to the Floyfest stage include Grupo Fantasma, Hot 8 Brass Band, Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers, Blues & Lasers, Ouros, and more.
Eighteen year old Cherub Chatfield has been going to Floydfest since it started. “This is the first year I’m camping,” said the Floyd County resident. “I’m really excited about seeing Grace Potter. She’s from Vermont and I’ve never seen her play. I have all her C.D.s. I’m a pretty big fan.”
Erich Woodrum, coordinator of the festival’s Global village, plays the djembe drum. He’s looking forward to hearing Forro in the Dark, a Brazilian flavored high energy percussion band that will also be presenting drumming workshops. “There’s something for everyone,” Woodrum said.
Johnson and Hodges are especially proud of their Under the Radar Series, in which one audience chosen favorite band wins prize money, more exposure, and an invitation to come back next year. “It’s a big part of who we are. We’re not into recycling the same names you’re going to see at every other corporate sponsored festival all summer,” Johnson said, adding that when choosing musical acts, they keep their ear to the ground for dedicated musicians who play from the heart.
The couple’s instincts are paying off. Last year former Governor and now Senator Mark Warner visited Floydfest and spoke on the main stage. This year the Virginia Tourism Corporation will be filming the festival as “part of a statewide endeavor to acquire high quality video of selected iconic Virginia events and locations … with the purpose of promoting Virginia.” Floydfest was also recently named one of the “Ten Best Fests on the Blue Ridge” by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine.
“Whenever you go to this festival you end up liking 12 new bands that you had never heard of before. It’s also a great thing for our society. People don’t see their neighbors very often or really do anything together. Festivals offer a social environment that provides many magical moments…” Donna the Buffalo’s Jeb Puryear was quoted as saying about Floydfest in the magazine.
The festival’s reputation as a family-centered progressive event is growing. Uriel Yard will be bringing her years of experience working Renaissance Faires, heading up the Children’s Universe where storytelling, theatrical performances and workshops are scheduled throughout the long weekend and balloons, puppets, fairies, and parading dragons make appearances.
The Healing Arts Village, sponsored by The Blue Ridge School of Massage and Yoga is a good place for festival goers to get off the beaten track, indulge in some pampering, or just unwind. The practitioners there will be offering workshops, healing arts merchandise, and body work, such as chair and deep tissue massage, shiatsu, rolfing, reiki. Nightly A.A. 12-step meetings are also hosted at the Healing Arts tent.
Another way for festival goers to get off the beaten track is to explore the 2 ½ mile biking and hiking trail that loops around the 80 acre site, a new addition to the festival scene. Culinary offerings, beer garden micro brews, and arts and crafts booths are Floydfest mainstays, as are hula hooping, bocce ball, scaling the climbing wall, dancing at the dance tent, and chilling out at the wireless café (hosted by Citizens).
Committed to the greening of the planet, festival organizers are encouraging people to bring their old cell phones for recycling and for a chance to win a prize. This year all the vending cups will be bio-degradable vegetable based, rather than made of plastic, Hodges pointed out. Eustace Conway, a North Carolinian naturalist and the subject of best selling author Elizabeth Gilbert’s book The Last American Man, will be presenting primitive life skills workshops in the Global Village.
Tickets to the festival can be purchased at the entrance and range from $40-60 dollars per day or $140 for the long weekend, which includes camping. Over a dozen non-profit groups benefit from Floydfest. The Floyd County High School Band, the Booster Club, sports teams, and Boy Scout troops trade work hours running off-site and on-site parking for donations from ticket sales to benefit their organizations. “We try to stay close to our small town roots,” Johnson said about the exchange.
Renee Lester owner of the Lawson House Inn in downtown Floyd says that guests attending Floyfest who have stayed at her Bed & Breakfast have been happy with the festivals. “It gets better every year, the organization and the music” said Lester, whose husband works for Dreaming Creek Timber Frame, builder of the festival’s main stage. Excited about festival number 8, Lester added, “Floydfest is a summer highlight that my whole family enjoys.” ~ Colleen Redman