Logistics of Putting on a Music Festival | Firefly Music Festival

Now that the first music festival ever held at Dover International Speedway is complete, I can say already it was a success. The acts were spot-on, which was expected, with great music by many artists like Jack White, The Killers and The Black Keys. But that is the type of stuff everyone expects — they are professionals, after all. What most do not get to see, however, is the amount of behind-the-scenes action it takes to produce a festival like Firefly.

Normally at this time, I would be writing an article about the Humphreys House and this week’s project — talking about the logistics and professional tips for doing a renovation. But because we have been at the Firefly Music Festival for the last three days, camping the entire time, there is not much to say about the Humphreys House.

We can still talk logistics about putting on a music festival, but since this is not my area of expertise, I am bringing in some reinforcements. Enter Gary Camp, director of communication for Dover International Speedway, to let us know what it takes to put on a festival of this magnitude and to do it for the first time. Camp was gracious enough to bring along some of the heavy hitters, Michael Tatoian, chief operating officer of Dover Motorsports, and Ed Klima, head of emergency services, to share the wisdom.

With a knowledge base built from more than 43 years of hosting NASCAR races, these guys are used to crowd management and moving mass amounts of people around in a safe and enjoyable environment. The difference between a music festival and NASCAR race is, the festival crowd is smaller but requires a much larger set-up.

“For races, the set-up is usually about 10 days. For the Firefly Festival, it was about five to six weeks to prepare and build,” Klima explained. “It is your basic construction management with an event nexus.”

Setting up and managing a project of this size, there are always issues and adjustments. While everyone was enjoying the pyrotechnics at The Killers show last Saturday night, Klima was there as well. However, if you ask him what songs were playing, he would not be able to tell you because, as always, he was “always thinking about what is next.”

We are thankful for that and the festival had been a success so far. Even during this interview on-site, I could tell Klima was anxious.

While chatting with the trio, the sun came out for the first time and that only meant that First Aid calls would increase. Simultaneously to that, Red Frog Events tweeted out to make sure everyone drank plenty of water and remained hydrated.

Tatoian had the opportunity to enjoy parts of the festival, but he had many people to answer to if things went wrong. After all, Dover Motorsports is a publicly-traded company.

“I give Red Frog Events all the credit for seeing our RV lot as a festival site,” he said.

Tatoian definitely credited “boots on the ground” (manpower actively involved) for making things happen last weekend. As for hosting the event, it just makes sense, and timing was perfect. The economy has had its effects on NASCAR during the last couple years so the Dover outfit had already been looking for additional revenue streams. To broaden its horizons even further, this is the first time Dover has welcomed “primitive camping,” which it may consider again for the two NASCAR events held there each year.

Tatoian admitted he is the last person you would expect to see at the Bassnectar show (a DJ who combines everything from the familiar with the strange or classic with cutting edge), but last Friday night he really enjoyed the performance. Still, it seems unlikely the DJ will be playing any NASCAR infield parties.