Firefly five-timers look back on festival’s growth

DOVER — The Firefly Music Festival turns 5 this year.

It went from an audience of around 30,000 people and a few stages around the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, to a sea of 90,000 people with a about 10 different stages, large and small, and attractions at every turn.

Artists such as The Killers, The Black Keys and Jack White headlined the first Firefly in 2011, which featured 40 acts as opposed to the 100-plus now.

The festival has gone on to host superstar artists such as The Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and Sir Paul McCartney.

The headliners this year are Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Florence + The Machine and Deadmau5.

For a very special group of local fans having access to what has become one of the biggest music festivals in the country has allowed them to attend every year and be members of the five-timers club.

Smaller beginnings

Alyssa Sanders of Dover said she did not know what to expect from the very first Firefly.

“I didn’t know most of the artists, but I ended up getting free tickets so I decided to give it a shot,” she said. “I’m so glad I went because it was a blast.”

Chris Dunn of Dover said the first year was great.

Savannah Shockley and Davis Taylor from Lewes have been to all five Firefly Music Festivals, (Submitted Photo/Davis Taylor)

Savannah Shockley and Davis Taylor from Lewes have been to all five Firefly Music Festivals, (Submitted Photo/Davis Taylor)

“It was a little bit smaller,” he said. “It was a lot different than what it is now.”

Mr. Dunn said the four stages and smaller area compared to today’s 154 acres available in The Woodlands made the experience more intimate.

Davis Taylor of Lewes said he felt “free” when he walked into the very first Firefly.

“I felt like I could run around and be a crazy person, and no one would look at you like you’re crazy,” he said. “Everyone is there to be a little crazy.”

Mr. Taylor’s friend Savannah Shockley, who is also from Lewes, only attended Firefly for one day back in 2011.

“Just going one day was a cool experience,” she said. “There were a bunch of bands I always wanted to see.”

She said she made sure to get the full experience the following year by camping during what was then a three-day event.

It went to four days the following year. in 2014.

“It was kind of like a little getaway,” Ms. Shockley said.

This year she’s camping with a bigger group of people.

“Years before, I just camped with two or three people, and this year I’ll be camping with 23 people,” she said.

Mr. Taylor said his only expectation this year is for his hair dye to wash out.

“I dyed my hair blue this year,” he said. “I expect it to come out during a show.”

Bar set high

Ms. Sanders said the bar was set high after the first Firefly.

“To my surprise, each year after the first, contributed to exceed my expectations for the festival,” she said.

Mr. Dunn said he’s debated with his friends which year was the best.

Chris Dunn of Dover shows off wristbands from all five Firefly Music Festivals. (Submitted photo)

Chris Dunn of Dover shows off wristbands from all five Firefly Music Festivals. (Submitted photo)

“The second year was probably my favorite,” he said. “It was the first time they did the late-night shows after the headliners. Nobody knew about them so it was pretty small, but an awesome crowd.”

Mr. Dunn said each year gets bigger, but he doesn’t know if each year gets better.

“Every year is just a different experience,” he said.

Mr. Taylor said each year’s band lineups seem to be better than the last. The musical acts have introduced him to different genre of music.

“This festival made me get into alternative music,” he said. “I would wait for the lineup every year and download each band’s music.”

Firefly memories

He said the enjoyment of the festival depends on the weather. Last year’s event was plagued by heavy rain and sloppy conditions throughout much of it.

“The years when there’s rain and mud really turns me off,” he said.

But a Matt and Kim concert last year during a “torrential downpour” turned into Mr. Taylor’s favorite Firefly performance.

“It rained for about 25 minutes during their performance,” he said.

During their song “Daylight,” he said the sky started opening up, and the sunlight began to peak through.

“It was really picturesque,” he said.

Ms. Shockley said her favorite Firefly performances happened last year with Grouplove, The Griswolds and Borns

“I was in the front row and knew all the words to every song,” she said.

Mr. Taylor said he enjoyed the last year’s late night White Panda concert. He said that despite the weariness of a long day, the energy from the electronic music and the crowd pushed him to dance.

“I never danced so hard,” he said.

Watching in style

The VIP accommodations offered by Firefly have been a bonus. One of Ms. Saunders’ favorite Firefly memories is when she received a free VIP upgrade after her friend won a contest.

“The amenities were awesome, and it was exciting getting the special treatment to cut lines and have preferred seating to watch the concerts,” Ms. Sanders said.

Mr. Dunn upgraded this year.

“We have VIP tickets this year, and they built a new VIP pavilion that is the size of a football field,” he said of the new accommodations this year, which also include air-conditioned bathrooms.

Ms. Sanders this year she’s checking out the Malibu Rum Beach House, the beach volleyball courts and the yoga. She said she enjoys the upgraded services they provided this year.

“I think the third year was my favorite, but this year is definitely giving it a run for its money,” she said.

Kristen Griffith is a freelance writer living in the Dover area.

Today at Firefly

This year’s Firefly Music Festival wraps up with headliners Mumford and Suns on the Main Stage at 9:15 p.m.

Electronic music group Major Lazer will officially send folks home with a 10:45 a.m. set ending a midnight in The

Ben Lovett and Mumford and Sons play tonight on the Main Stage. (Submitted photo/Michael Muros)

Ben Lovett and Mumford and Sons play tonight on the Main Stage. (Submitted photo/Michael Muros)


Highlights of the day include Main Stagers The Staves, Nathaniel Rateliff, Grouplove, Blink-182 and Mumford and Sons.

Rapper Ludacris kicks off the day at 12:30 p.m. on The Lawn Stage in a performance that was originally scheduled for Friday.

Elle King and The 1975 perform on The Lawn at 5:45 and 8 p.m., respectively.

Trombone Shorty and R&B legends Earth, Wind and Fire will be at The Backyard Stage at 5:45 and 8 p.m., respectively.

Travis Barker, of Blink-182, and Grouplove will both be in The Treehouse today. is streaming selected sets including Blink-182, Earth Wind and Fire and Mumford and Sons.

Single-day tickets are available at

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