Firefly’s new owners tout festival changes for ‘Great Atlantic Campout’

DOVER — On Friday the gates to the Firefly Music Festival will swing open just east of the Dover International Speedway and thousands of music fans will mob the grounds for the eighth annual three-day outdoor camping/music festival.

The perennial question on patrons’ lips is: what’s new this year? This is particularly the case this year since the festival came under new ownership in 2018.

AEG Presents, who was already a majority holder in Firefly, acquired the remaining ownership shares of the festival last summer from Red Frog Events, a Chicago-based event company. Since then, AEG — the concert promoter behind events such as Coachella and Stagecoach in Southern California, Panorama Festival in New York City and 8,000 concerts a year — has handled promotion and production of Firefly.

Holding a press conference on Wednesday at the festival grounds, called The Woodlands, organizers met with the media, delegates and partners to get into more detail about recent changes

The first change that caught fans’ attention, announced last year, was that the festival was trimmed from four days to three. However, this wasn’t discussed during the event, taking back seat to the organizers’ “excitement” about recent investments in the venue.

Though The Woodlands is owned by Dover International Speedway, Firefly’s festival director Stephanie Mezzano says they’ve continued to update and improve infrastructure at the site to help make it “Firefly’s forever home.”
“Our largest investment this year has been focused on our campgrounds,” she said. “We invested heavily in the North Hub Beach Club. It’s now a fully sand beach — the entire thing covered in sand. We have a stage there, a Tiki bar, it has a volleyball court installed by Visit Delaware and we also added a permanent shower building — it’s massive.”

Ms. Mezzano noted that in previous years the festival devoted resources to updating the inside of the festival grounds, but 2019’s goal had been to improve the campgrounds. The new shower building contains 200 individual stalls, complete with male and female locker rooms. The sand beach will have water splash pads for lounging and a water slide as well.

“Camping can be a little hard with all the walking around and staying in tents, but this gives our fans somewhere to go to get ready for the festival,” said Ms. Mezzano. “It’s really to add more comfort to our fans’ experience.”
Billing itself as the “east coast’s largest music and camping festival,” festival orgaizers said the new more than $1 million investment support their “immersive camping experience” called The Great Atlantic Campout.

The grounds will also feature several “ranger stations” where campers can access information from knowledgeable Rangers.

They will provide charging stations, communal grills and fire pits, water refill stations, restrooms and be able to refill trash and recycling bags.
Additionally, Ms. Mezzano said more programing and features were being added to the lineup inside the festival.
“We’re adding more new things than ever,” she said. “There are three new stages, and the production level is going to be better than ever too. There will be interactive programming too like comedy shows and dating games — something a little different to keep people entertained in between seeing their favorite bands.”
Other features to amuse festival goers like a butterfly sanctuary, art installations, Bocce ball courts and a high-end supper club have also been added this year, say organizers.

Gushing about the mainstay festival, Gov. John Carney spoke at the event on Wednesday saying that it has helped attract people to the state.
“It seems like you ramp it up a little more each and every year with your marketing expertise and connection with your audience,” he said. “It’s great to have really interesting and cool things for people to do here — for both residents of our state and to attract visitors. Firefly has to be one of the best. It’s a magical event for sure and it’s a partnership between a lot of public agencies too.”

Working with the Delaware Tourism Office and DelDOT, the festival launched a shuttle program this year with bus services to Wilmington, Newark and the beaches. Organizers said it was intended to expand the festival’s reach in the state while offering a safe way to travel to and from the event.

“We’re thrilled to announce that it exceeded our expectations and the shuttle program actually completely sold out on Monday,” said Ms. Mezzano.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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