Susan Hubay and her husband took their beloved VW van to the world music and arts festival that is held each year near Floyd, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They were there for what Susan describes as “four magical days in 2012”.
My husband, Hugh, and I try to go to two or three folk and bluegrass festivals every year. Mariposa Folk Festival is always on our list because it’s in Orillia, Ontario, which is close to where we live. This trek out to FloydFest was very different and sort of accidental. The draw for us was a specific artist whose name is Michael Franti. He was on our bucket list so we were there just to see him.
It’s about 1,200 km from where we live to Floyd. We took our time getting there and we’re glad we did for the area is spectacular. We drove through Pennsylvania, into West Virginia and then along the Blue Ridge Parkway that connects Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The festival is high in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The mountains are known for their bluish colour when seen from a distance.
The festival was perfect. A large musical note landscaped into the grass welcomed us. There were multiple festival stages: Bluegrass Workshop Stage, that has a backwoods look and where musicians from the hills of Virginia perform; Up Close and Personal Stage, where performers not only sing but also discuss their music with you; Global Stage where late at night the music is enhanced by fire spinners. There were so many amazing musicians aside from Michael Franti. Some were well known and others up-and-coming. Among the well known were Alison Kraus and Union Station, Gary Clarke Jr, Ricky Skaggs, Jackson Browne and Brandi Carlile. It was the Whitetop Mountain Band on the Bluegrass Workshop Stage that really offered up a new musical experience for us.
The festival was the best in terms of setting. The tents were in a sheltered woodsy area and the site for vans was engineered into a hillside. We were able to fall asleep in our VW van with the music going on around us. The atmosphere was just amazing and the people so friendly and helpful. The festival had all the “to be expected” features such as cheap eats, kids area, beer tents, multiple festival stages, craft areas, workshops and many port-a-potties. It was unique to us, however, and the weather was fantastic. Drugs and alcohol are not a big issue at bluegrass and folk music festivals because they are family friendly with lots of children around.
One of our favourite memories was waking up at 2 a.m. to the songs from the Dark Side of the Moon album. We slowly realized that it was being played live by a phenomenal band on the Global Stage. We crawled out of the VW to hear the note-perfect rendition while sitting under the stars, surrounded by fire spinners. It was magical. Being that close with so many people and everyone just listening to nothing but great music for 4 days makes me feel good about the world. It’s kind of a little bubble that’s nice to enter now and then. It’s the way I want the world to be.
I understand the following year—2013—there were too many people and lots of rain. They learned from that experience and made some changes. They want it to be a really good small festival that everyone enjoys. I am anxious to go back.
This interview with Susan Hubay has been edited and condensed.
Photo credits Hugh MacMillan unless otherwise noted.
© Riding the buses 2014