Last weekend, the inaugural Firefly Festival put Delaware on the musical map, drawing an estimated audience of 30,000 people per day to the First State's first major music festival. Before the dust had completely settled on the Woodlands of the Dover International Speedway, where the three-day event was held, Red Frog Events announced that they will return to Delaware for Firefly 2013. Early-bird tickets for next year's event, being held on June 21-13, went on sale Wednesday, with artist lineup to be announced later.
With its 2012 event featuring 48 bands on its four stages -- including Jack White, the Killers, The Black Keys, Death Cab for Cutie, John Legend, the Flaming Lips -- Firefly's aim is to succeed where festivals like All Points West and Field Day failed: To give East Coast music fans a summer festival experience on par with landmark events such as San Francisco's Outside Lands and Chicago's Lollapalooza.
"For Firefly's overall vibe, we wanted to go for the feeling of a carefree summer night. That's where the name comes from," said festival director Greg Bostrom, just 24. "Musically, we really idolized some of the big U.S. festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, which have a rock-heavy, eclectic mix of artists. We drew our inspiration from those type of festivals."
To aide in their efforts, festival organizers Red Frog Events -- a Chicago-based production company famous for organizing extreme races such as Warrior Dash and the Great Urban Race - brought on Lambda Productions (known for producing mammoth music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Outside Lands) to handle the event's stage, sound and lighting. A Red Frog rep said the company's success with the races gave it the resources and clout to stage the festival and draw the talent, which they secured along with Integrity Events.
Together, the teams worked to transform 87-acres of forestland adjacent to the Dover International Speedway into the largest music and arts event ever hosted in Delaware.
Location also proved key to the festival's success. And while organizers report that Firefly attracted fans from 48 states, most out-of-town attendees originated from neighboring states along the Eastern Seaboard.
"We spent a year looking at 11 sites across 9 states," said Firefly director Greg Bostrom says. "We ended up wanting to be in the East Coast because, while it has the highest population density in the country, it doesn't have a top 10 music festival in terms of overall attendance.
"Also, If you look at Dover, on a map it's within two and a half hours of DC, Philly, Baltimore and New York. So logistically, the location makes a lot of sense."
For its premiere event, Firefly was noticeably devoid of most of the organizational hiccups that plague large-scale festivals in their inaugural years. In addition to an almost by-the-minute adherence to the band schedule, crowds at Firefly enjoyed a host of on-site attractions including hot-air balloon rides, vintage arcades, a hammock area for maximum relaxation and an assortment of adult concessions by national brands such as Jack Daniels (who hosted a whiskey museum where guests could learn about the history of the brand), Ketel One vodka and Budweiser, as well as local vendors such as Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, who hosted an air-conditioned brewery on the grounds and featured a "Firefly Ale" made specifically for the festival. Other brands associated with the festival were Got2be, which hosted a mini salon near the camping areas, and Toms Shoes, who brought in local artists to decorate the footwear to fans' requests.
"Our main focus was on the 3-day festival experience," said Bostrom. "We wanted to book a great lineup, but we didn't stop there. We're trying to create an event that we would love to go to and hopefully that translates to all the people at Firefly here the first year will bring back some friends next year."
Thanks to the success of their premiere music event, Bostrom said Firefly could be a springboard to the company developing more music ventures.
"There's elements of live music at Warrior Dash on a much smaller scale, but the whole music industry is brand new to us," Bostrom. "I think it's a new competency for us that we can pair with other things we do well. Hopefully Firefly won't be the last you hear from us in this realm."