Rural Virginia festival asserts dominance through family-friendly atmosphere, blending of old, new-school performers
By John Flannagan
If you love family-friendly events that take place in the great outdoors amid thousands of like-minded, free-spirited individuals, then FloydFest, held in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Floyd, Virginia, is where you need to be July 25-29. Already the recipient of multiple awards, Blue Ridge Outdoors and Blue Ridge Country magazines recently named FloydFest the best kid-friendly outdoor destination and overall best music festival, respectively, making it easy to see why upwards of 15,000 people are flocking to Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker 170.5 each year.
Having always leaned heavily on traditional roots music in the past, festival organizers have knocked it out of the park this year with an eclectic lineup boasting up-and-comers and newly minted favorites like Foster the People, Greta Van Fleet, Tyler Childers, ZZ Ward and Hiss Golden Messenger rubbing elbows with traditional festival regulars such as Keller Williams, Leftover Salmon, Gov’t Mule and Old Crow Medicine Show. This year, FloydFest plans to expand on the Buffalo Mountain Jam by doing a Keller Williams Pettygrass (Tom Petty) tribute. (Last year’s Gregg Allman tribute featuring Railroad Earth was one for the ages.)
FloydFest has implemented a few changes this year, starting with moving the Outdoor Adventure Tent to the front and center so that festivalgoers can take advantage of the area’s many outdoor-recreation opportunities such as hiking, disc golf (there’s an 18-hole course near the festival grounds), kayaking and a 5k run. The former location of the tent has been reconfigured to be a full camping area. Another change is that onsite RV parking has been re-implemented due to popular demand. Lastly, organizers created the “FloydFest for Faculty” program to reward area teachers for their hard work by giving away numerous festival tickets to educators based on written submissions by their students – just another way FloydFest is endearing itself to the region.
Many of the things we love about the festival have been left intact, though, including the Children’s Universe (which my son loved last year), storytelling at the Ferrum College Workshop Porch and everyone’s favorite, the Pink Floyd Beer and Wine Garden. Also, as per usual, FloydFest will be hosting eight stages of entertainment that will last into the wee hours of the morning. These attractions, along with the arts and crafts boutiques, craft beer representatives from all around the region and numerous, unique food vendors, all have been staples at previous festivals, and they have been instrumental in keeping attendees coming year after year.
Each iteration of FloydFest always has had a particular motif; the theme this year is “Wild.” What better way to explore your personal wild side than by checking out the impressive late-night schedule which includes Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Lil Smokies and The Broadcast? Greta Van Fleet, who are beginning to take the world by storm (see our Shaky Knees review from May), are scheduled to play a 12:30 a.m. set, as well, that just might blow a peak off of a nearby mountain.
While all of these features make FloydFest such a wonderful occasion for so many (and rightly so), the biggest draw for me is the people. With every festival today boasting a peace-and-love mentality, only this one seems to truly embrace and live that mantra. Whether it’s a friendly smile from a passerby, someone helping you pitch your tent (as happened to us last year) or even someone letting you borrow a hula hoop (also experienced last year at the main stage), it’s the awesome human interactions and laid-back vibe that have so many people from so many walks of life and of all ages flocking to the Blue Ridge Parkway year after year, getting on famously and completely digging the experience.
We are among said tribe now, and we can’t wait to get back to Floyd with a crew double the size than we brought last year in order to make lasting memories with our families. As FloydFest’s founder/owner Kris Hodges so eloquently put it in a recent interview: “If you inspire hearts and minds, people will think more clearly and they’ll make better moral decisions.” Tickets and camping to FloydFest Wild 2018 are moving fast and can be purchased here.