Firefly lights back up after the storm

DOVER — After an abrupt ending Saturday night when a severe storm led organizers of the Firefly Musical Festival to evacuate The Woodlands at Dover International Speedway, the music resumed Sunday amid mud and under mostly blue skies.

On Sunday, Dover International Speedway’s Public Safety reported that, thanks to the cooperation of the artists and festival-goers, the grounds were cleared within an hour of the first alert issued just before 10 p.m. Within 30 minutes, lightning illuminated the night sky, thunder rumbled and rain began falling.

Kent County Public Safety, provider of paramedics and emergency response, reported Sunday there were no storm-related emergencies.

“The evacuation went as well as could be expected and we kept all patients in the public safety compound until they could safely return to their cars,” Cindy Grygo, assistant director of Kent County Public Safety, said. “All patients received care, but there were no injuries or emergencies related to the storm.”

Earlier Saturday Red Frog Events, organizers of Firefly, had adjusted the evening schedule in attempt to get in as many shows as possible before the expected severe weather moved in.

However, around 9:50 p.m. Saturday, tens of thousands fans pulled their cellphones from pockets and purses, not to take selfies but rather to read an alert on the Firefly app to clear festival grounds due to the likelihood of severe weather.

Dover Police Department also took to Twitter to urge people to “seek shelter in your vehicles and NOT tents, take down pop-up canopies, and flagpoles as well.”

The decision was made after forecasts from both an on-site meteorologist and the National Weather Service agreed on the likely arrival of a heavy storm that would bring heavy rain, wind, lightning and possibly hail.

Minutes after the mobile alert, musicians on stage were cut off to allow an announcement urging those who didn’t see the mobile notification to exit the festival.

“The safety and well-being of our patrons is our utmost concern,” said Ed Klima, senior director of the speedway’s Public Safety. Red Frog Events contracted to hold the festival at the speedway’s The Woodlands area. This year’s festival, it’s fourth, was a 90,000-ticket sell-out.

“As the day progressed,” Mr. Klima said on Sunday, “it became apparent that several different weather systems, including the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill, would be affecting the Dover area.”

Red Frog had hopes shows could resume after the storm passed but another alert was issued around 12:30 a.m. Sunday canceling the remaining gigs.

The show goes on — sort of

Of the shows interrupted or canceled Saturday night, Steve Aoki and The Chainsmokers were the only acts able to reschedule to play Sunday. As for Kid Cudi and Sublime with Rome, fans had to make due with a partial set.

Those who had waited for Kings of Leon had the real letdown.

“They’re my sister’s favorite band and she’s waited four years to see them,” Tom Heaney of Smyrna said. “We’ve been excited to see them since rumor came out last summer that they’d be here because they never come to this area.

“It’s a real bummer but we tried to make the best of the situation by hooking up some speakers to our trailer and having a dance party in the rain. We must have been up until almost 3 a.m.”

Thousands of others had a dance party Sunday afternoon listening to electro-house musician Aoki who played dance mixes on the Backyard Stage.

“I’ve been to Firefly every year, but this is my friend’s first time and Steve Aoki was one of four bands he wanted to see,” Tom Massey, of New York, said. “He basically cried himself to sleep last night when we found out Steve wasn’t playing.”

Thanks to an alert from the Firefly app, Mr. Massey and his friend, Jonathan Salvador, found out Aoki was rescheduled.

Steven and Ali Mergaman came from Philadelphia and Aoki was at the top of their list of acts to see.

“Even after they told us to leave last night, we hung around for as long as possible, hoping he would still play but we finally got kicked out,” Mr. Mergaman said.

Aoki’s rescheduled show did not leave any fans disappointed. His full set included a wide range of music including Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” “The Lion King” theme, ‘90s’ rap and hip-hop, Kid Cudi and Oasis’ “Wonderwall” which featured The Chainsmokers.

Aside from the high energy show Aoki put on and the music that kept the crowd on its feet, fans were doused in confetti, streamers, champagne and even cake, all making for a memorable performance.

“We were so glad when we found out he had rescheduled and the show was awesome,” Ms. Mergaman said.

Mud bath

Whether dancing to house music or just walking around the festival grounds, feet were covered in mud. Mud has been a problem throughout the festival but Saturday night’s storm resurrected the wet, sloppy mess Friday’s and Saturday’s sunshine had partially dried.

Many of the muddy areas were filled in with wood shavings to sop up some of the water while vendors laid out plywood so customers wouldn’t sink past their ankles in mud.

The worst areas were close to the main stage where a pool had formed and was actually fenced off and in the walkways between different areas of the festival, especially those in the shade.

The path between the two main portions of the festival was probably the worst with Firefly fans cautiously wading through the mud, trying to figure out the safest path. Some inched along the fence and others held hands not to slip.

Some even went barefoot.

“We saw how bad it was and were just like, ‘screw it,’” said Haley Wagaman from Connecticut with her friend Caroline Nixon. “We decided to go barefoot and I love it, as you can see, my legs are practically covered in mud and I even fell down in it but that’s all right.”

The two were staying to see Sunday night’s headliner, The Killers.

Despite the rain, mud, baking sun and canceled shows, fans still were partying and jamming out to the last bands to perform at the festival.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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