By Corey Thompson
On the top of a mountain just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, FloydFest brings music, art, and people to Patrick County and surrounding areas as it transforms a quite mountain peak into a tourist mecca, with people from across the United States have been making the trek to the annual event since the early 2000s. The fest features six stages for performers and rows of food and merchandise vendors, all encircled by camp grounds.
FloydFest offers onsite entertainment and dining coupled with an atmosphere of peace, love, and good times. The festival offers more than 30 food and merchandise vendors, it was like being in a giant outdoor mall. Local businesses that are staples in Floyd, like Dowgtown Pizza, offered patrons a taste and look into the small town. Other food options included, but were not limited, to smothered and covered biscuits from the Bearly Edible Buscuit Company; juices and smoothies from Revolution Juice; or a cold custard cone from Kippy’s Kustard. There also were plenty of souvenirs to peruse. White canopy tents full of clothing and knick-knacks surrounded the main festival area. Patrons could pick up some artistically altered sunglasses from Spunglasses or a Chinese yo-yo from Juggler’s Paradise. There was even a company called Bitchin’ Sauce that made the journey from California. If alcohol was on the agenda, two locations on the grounds offered patrons a choice between six breweries including Deschute’s, Bold Rock, and Devil’s Backbone or wine from Chateau Morrisette along with stages for music. Other tents included the Virginia State Lottery giving out prizes for mini games; a handmade toy store; several artists selling canvas paintings and drawings.
FloydFest also offered plenty to do for free. Performers on six stages consistently produced music, with at most an hour in-between band. Genres varied between funk, rock, bluegrass, soul, reggae, folk, and world music. Musicians such as Tyler Childers, Casey Musgrave, Phil Lesh and the Terapine Family Band, and Leftover Salmon filled the airways. Attendees who needed a break from standing had the option to bring chairs or blankets. Eno, the company famous for making hammocks, offered a lounging area and a silent disco every night at their tent. For those who wanted to bathe but did not want to wait in line for the showers, a natural soap company provided a free all-in-one shower experience inside their human car wash. Patrons were blasted with foamy soap to lather and then rinsed clean with water hoses inside a giant glass tank. Small performances could be caught from traveling magicians, fire twirlers and dancers, and stilt walkers throughout the weekend. There was always something to do or see.
The ambiance of the festival attracts many. The production company boasts and delivers on the aesthetic of “taking it easy” and loving where you are and who you are with. This aesthetic accompanies a theme every year. Previous themes include “Rock of Ages” or “eXtreme.” This year’s theme was a “Voyage Home.” Its goal was to bring everyone together on their journey, with the focus not on the destination but what happened along the way. An emcee at each stage shared personal words or poetry related to the theme, expressing the importance of finding peace in the craziness and building relationships for life and not just during the five-day run time.
Positive attitudes radiated from smiling faces all across the festival site, as people stopped to compliment another’s shirt or to help carry a bag. New friendships were forged among camping neighbors and old relationships reignited between friends made in previous years. Strangers chatted on the 10-minute shuttle ride from the parking lots. Everyone seemed connected.
Fest goers were not limited to the perks and activities included in the ticket price, with other entertainment options a stone’s throw away. For example, the Blue Ridge Parkway is situated adjacent to the festival site, with scenic drives through wooded mountain roads. The town of Floyd is within a short drive. The festival gets its name from the town and much of its atmosphere. Small businesses, locally owned by artisans, normally fill the town any other time of year. However, during the week of FloydFest, they are joined by pop-up sidewalk sales; huge flea market-like yard sales; people selling things out of the back of their cars; and children selling homemade lemonade and baked goods beside the road. There is an opportunity — and a market — for everyone.
The hamlet of Meadows of Dan is another popular site among fest goers, and like many areas attracts visitors who do not rough it in the woods in tents or live out of a camper but seek accommodations elsewhere. Months before the fest starts, every hotel, bed and breakfast, and rental property within 30 minutes of the festival site is booked full. Some attendees even seek accommodations in places like Christiansburg, which is almost an hour away.
It has been stated that no other music festival can accomplish what FloydFest does because nowhere else attracts as many people who seemingly love each other and get along.
There are two slogans associated with the festival every year. One is “Music, Mountains, and Magic;” it can be seen on a giant cut-out metal sign as you enter the grounds. The magic refers to the connection between everyone.
The other slogan is “A Tribe Called Floyd Fest,” as is evident by tapestries and bags covered in the saying. It’s just another affirmation that when you’re on top of the mountain in Floyd you are with family.