There’s a new theme to the upcoming third annual Firefly Music Festival in the lush Woodlands behind the Dover International Speedway in Delaware: “Bigger and better,” says festival director Greg Bostrom.
He’s not kidding.
In addition to adding a fourth day in 2014, which subsequently means more artist bookings (there are 100-plus acts booked this year), Firefly has also expanded its wooded site from 87 to 154 acres to accommodate more fans at its main stage, built a new premium campsite, extended its late-night hours and beefed up its on-site attractions.
“We want to be the premiere festival on the East Coast,” Bostrom tells Billboard. “Every time we ask fans what they want, they say more music, more days, more camping. So we wanted to accommodate that and give fans what they’re looking.”
This year’s Red Frog Events-produced Firefly will be held June 19-22 and feature such headliners as Foo Fighters, Outkast, and Jack Johnson. Other acts scheduled to play the festival’s seven stages include Beck, Arctic Monkeys, the Lumineers, Pretty Lights, Weezer, Imagine Dragons, Band of Horses, Childish Gambino, Tegan and Sara, Girl Talk, Cage the Elephant, Sleigh Bells and Jake Bugg.
In addition to the live music, Firefly will once again feature unique on-site attractions, including air-conditioned vintage arcades, a hammock area for maximum relaxation, a coffee house with board games, the Dogfish Head Brewery with a large outside patio view of the main stage, campsites with morning yoga sessions and a farmers market, and much more.
“We work very hard to continuously create new experiences so that our guests come to the festival and not only walk away glad that they saw bands, but they feel like they’ve really become a part of the culture we’ve created and have seen something new,” Stephanie Mezzano, VP of operations at Red Frog, tells Billboard.
Chicago-based Red Frog, famously known for throwing the extreme obstacle race Warrior Dash, signed an exclusive deal prior to the 2013 Firefly to secure the event's spot in the Dover Woodlands for another 10 years.
This year’s Firefly Music Festival will attract about 80,000 festivalgoers per day, according to Bostrom, noting that 50,000 of those people will be campers. That’s a big growth from when the inaugural three-day festival in 2012 attracted 30,000 per day. Last year, the event drew about 65,000 festivalgoers per day.
The Dover festival sees music fans from 24 countries and all 50 U.S. states, but the majority of ticket-buyers come from surrounding East Coast areas like Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, Mezzano says. One-day general passes cost between $49 and $109 (plus fees), while a one-day VIP pass runs $249 and a four-day VIP pass costs $699.
BIGGER AND BETTER
One of the biggest changes at the 2014 Firefly is that the main stage – the festival’s only area to watch headliners – has been expanded to hold north of 100,000 festivalgoers.
“We have a brand new main stage field that can accommodate double the capacity than we’ve had in any previous years,” Bostrom says. “It’s totally surrounded by trees and tucked back in the beautiful woodlands, which makes Firefly what it is.”
The Red Frog team has worked with local and state officials to expand this year’s Firefly hours until 2 a.m. on the festival grounds and as late as 4 a.m. on the campgrounds, which features concert stages with live entertainment. In 2012 the festival shut down at 11 p.m. and last year it went until 1 a.m.
“We’ve had great relations with all those parties and things have gone smoothly from an operational perspective -- and we have respectful fans,” Bostrom says. “If we hadn’t had those relations, we probably would’ve had more challenges trying to go later into the night.”
The 2014 Firefly will also see the addition of premium campground located on the northeast side of the festival. Mezzano says the new site is more secluded and closer to the festival grounds than the other campsite. Both areas, however, are set up as “mini festivals” with concert stages, food vendors, morning yoga sessions, bathrooms and showers, and other accommodations.
Another difference from past years is that Firefly has gone from three days to four days. The fourth day was added in part to help ease the traffic jams of 80,000 people attempting to arrive all at once, Bostrom says.
“It’s a lot of people to get into Dover, Delaware, in one day and we experienced a lot of traffic last year. Some people waited in traffic for hours longer than we wanted them to,” the festival director says. “Part of the remedy was expanding the festival to four days and selling packages that allowed people to load in starting on Wednesday and all day Thursday.”
In yet another first, fans were asked to play a large role in helping book the 2014 lineup. Prior to securing talent, organizers sent a survey to about 15,000 past attendees asking them to rank 500 bands on a scale from 1-10 of which they’d like to see perform at the festival.
“Using that data we made our initial hit list and said, ‘Our fans really want to see Foo Fighters; they should be high on our target list.’” Bostrom says, noting that Firefly is booked in conjunction with Integrity Events. “We really view our job as talent bookers as trying to serve the fans, so that was an amazing analytical tool for us to literally have the response of 15,000 fans telling us who they’d prefer to see at Firefly.”
All the additions this year have added up in cost. Luckily, Firefly will likely see profits after this year’s edition.
“It’s certainly a costly proposition, even when you account for the extra revenue you can get from the ticket sales and food and beverage sales,” he says. “We thought it was important enough to the fan experience to make sure they have a smooth entry and exit from the festival, and also to give them that extended weekend that people are looking for. We definitely ran the numbers back and forth and at the end of the day decided it was a very worthy investment.”