Letters from FloydFest
FloydFest: The Magical Musical Mountain Festival
By David Rakes, longtime FloydFest patron
Most music festivals are marathons and more days equal a longer and more satisfying marathon in the end. Personally, I love music festivals and generally fly solo, so I don’t have to lead nor follow anyone else. It works out better that way for everyone because I have been known to just get up and leave a performance and roll on to something else without notice. Many of my friends get crazy at the first sign of a schedule and immediately break out a highlighter to figure out all the bands most wanted and then all the overlaps and whatnots. One cannot do it all and at my age I must pace everything, including sun, heat, beer, time on feet, time on seat, enough water, enough food, enough rest, extracurriculars, etc. Even expert festival veterans can forget the rules of survival at a four or five-day music festival. Been there done that.
Every music festival requires a ton of magic in the background to create the magic for everyone in attendance to make more magic and spend it around the festival. The people who put together the music festivals are amazing magicians who spend countless hours and determination to make the experience and magical musical adventure for all who participate. The musical magicians share the magical vibe with all who attend so new magicians are created and continue to spread even more magic. Throughout my concert life I have attended many music festivals: Great Big Ones, Little Ones, Medium Ones, All Genres, All Scenes, and All Kinds of People from All Over the World. Everyone seems to have a different reason to attend a multi-day music festival. Some love the music, some love the scene, some love the friends and smiling faces, some like getting wasted, but all seem to love the freedom of getting away from day to day reality.
The most magical music festival I have attended is FloydFest, off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, just an hour or so south of Roanoke. There are special things about FloydFest I can describe and quite a few things that are unexplainable unless one is there as a participant. First, as noted, the amazing production crew who put the incredible effort to make it beautiful and easy to navigate, line up some of the most eclectic bands, artists, activities, vendors, and so much more. FloydFest 2018 will be my fifth and certainly not my last. From Bluegrass to Rock n Roll to Funky Space jams, one can follow one’s ear and find magic. One year I walked around with a notebook and asked people to write one sentence about why he/she loves the festival. Many answers were similar. Most popular theme: FloydFest is an escape from day to day life located in a perfectly peaceful, safe, and spirit nurturing environment. FloydFest is a spirit nurturing festival. One can get worn out by the “marathon” but totally refreshed on so many levels.
Not to say anything, but I get an awful lot of hugs at FloydFest. It is a HugFest, let me tell you. Everyone just seems ecstatic to be there and have a blast with likeminded folks. There are people from all walks of life and the people watching is ample entertainment, but remember, everyone is the entertainment. YOU ARE THE ENTERTAINMENT! There are many stereotypes one can put on others, but the common denominator regarding the love of music and freedom shatters all labels. One doesn’t see Hollywood celebrities mugging for their film crew or a bunch of folks posturing for attention. FloydFest attendees seem to “get it” more than most festival crowds. People are aware and conscientious. People seem to enjoy the challenge of pitching in to help another festival goer or the festival itself. One can always find help around the festival because it doesn’t long for the attendees to become an auxiliary part of the staff. Everyone really seems unselfish, accessible and kind. Last year, for example, my daughter forgot to bring a towel (no comment) and needed mine. After two days and a pit check, I needed a shower and as I was walking to my daughter’s tent to get the already used and nasty towel, a couple approached about my tie-dyed pants. After complimenting my pants, they stated that they were official FloydFest towel vendors and offered me two medium sized Turkish cotton towels. I never mentioned that I was walking to my daughter’s tent to get a towel…ever. Boom! Magic.
So…after 48 years on this Earth and hundreds on concerts and festivals, I believe FloydFest truly leads the pack and ranks number one for great music festivals. It is the most mellow and friendly. Not too big and not too small. Lots of activities. Lots of familiar faces. Eclectic bands representing many genres of music and performance. FloydFest doesn’t just talk “family friendly”, they live it. Kids of all ages have a blast and plenty to do from morning until well into the night. I’m the last one who wants to see FloydFest grow into a mess of overcrowding and commercialism, but I would at least like the world to know what an amazing magical music festival lives in a little nook in Virginia we call home. The magic and the cosmic pull of FloydFest is undeniable and the spiritually growth can last and last until the next year.