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Inside Firefly Music Festival: The Crew Previews the First 24 Hours (From Porta-Potty Patrol to Paul McCartney’s Dressing Room)

What does it take, on the ground -- and in the air! -- to manage a major music event? The crew of the upcoming Firefly Music Festival offered a preview of what their first 24 hours will be like.

4 a.m. — MICHAEL COCO (camping operations and public safety director, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — On Friday, we let fans into the campgrounds at 6 a.m., but we’re usually ready to soft-open around 4 if we have a line of people ­waiting.

5:05 a.m. — MIKE TATOIAN (president/CEO, Dover International ­Speedway) — We also do NASCAR here on the ­Speedway, and those last few hours before the gates open are very similar to the ­feeling you get on race day.


7:30 a.m. — CHRISTIANE PHEIL (artist ­relations/talent, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — The day’s artists begin to arrive. At this point, we do our first sweep of the 35 dressing rooms: We make sure they’re clean and stocked with drinks, fresh fruit, vegetables, snacks, coffee, tea.

10 a.m. — ANDREA CHAPA (customer experience, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — I stop by the information tent and deal with special fan requests. In 2014 we had a few couples that wanted to get married at the festival, and we coordinated small ceremonies. I also had a mother contact me prior to the festival to let me know her son was bringing his bride to Firefly for their honeymoon. They were just out of high school and heading to college in the fall.

Noon — STEPHANIE MEZZANO (vp operations, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — We open the gates and watch as the people come flooding onto the grounds. Each year we play the same song as everyone marches in: “Here Comes the Sun.” So it’s pretty cool to have Paul McCartney on-site this year.

12:01 p.m. — SAM CALAGIONE (founder, Dogfish Head Brewery) — I celebrate the opening of the festival by pouring myself the first pint out of our tent — and it’s always a pint of our seasonal craft beer Firefly Ale.

12:05 p.m. — KATELYN BOYLE (access and credentials director, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — We’re making sure we’re ­getting everyone into the festival as fast as possible. We process 40 to 50 people per minute through every scan point.

12:15 p.m. — GREG BOSTROM (marketing director, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — The first few stages fire up. There are seven stages in all, scheduled so that there’s two or three active at any given time.

1:30 p.m. — KRISTIN CAREY (marketing director, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — We’re working with the video production crews so if there’s a performance where the artist goes above and beyond, we capture it. Twenty One Pilots have played a few times and always do crazy stuff, and in 2014 The Lumineers hopped onstage with Jack Johnson.

3 p.m. — MEZZANO — A few of us go in a helicopter to get an aerial view of the ­property. We can see the traffic patterns and how we’re utilizing space.

6 p.m. — CAITLYN KAHAN (back of house director, Red Frog Events/Firefly) — Dinnertime is when we’re looking closely at the servicing schedules for the porta-potties.

7 p.m. — PHEIL — Dinner is served for the headliners. They have their own backstage compounds with remote kitchens and a buffet setup. A couple of years ago, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had their own chef, so we just set up the kitchen based on what they told us they needed and then they prepared everything themselves.

10 p.m. — BOSTROM — Headliner sets are starting.

11 p.m. — MEZZANO — We’re about halfway through the headline shows. I’ll make my way to the end of the crowd to prepare for “the blowout.”

Midnight — BOYLE — “The blowout” is what we call the mass exodus of all the people. We have some late-night shows, but when the headliner ends at 12, that’s when we have so many people leaving that we want to make sure it’s handled efficiently.

12:30 a.m. — CALAGIONE — Last call. We’ve poured somewhere in the range of 25,000 pints today.

2 a.m. — BOSTROM — The festival closes down, so we have to get every fan off-site and back to the campgrounds or their car.

2:30 a.m. — PHEIL — We’re ­cleaning ­everything before the crews and ­production teams arrive for the next day’s headliners. In 2014, we had Foo Fighters play on Friday, and their crew was cleaned out and leaving the festival by about 2:30 a.m. Then Outkast’s people arrived at 3.

4 a.m. — COCO At the campgrounds, some of the food trucks stay open and serve late-night snacks before everything starts again at 6. 

This article first appeared in the June 20 issue of Billboard.