The Firefly Music Festival, a four-day event in Dover, Del., has experienced rapid growth since its inauguration in 2012. Firefly released its lineup on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and will take place from June 16 - 19, 2016. Rachel Biderman Managing Editor of The News-Letter spoke to Firefly’s Director of Experience Megan Marshall to talk about the 2016 Festival.
Rachel Biderman: Firefly started just four years ago and has grown exponentially ever since. Did you expect this growth? As a team, how are you adjusting to it?
Megan Marshall: Firefly’s growth has been tremendous. We knew when we started that we had a world’s worth of potential in front of us, but adjusting to the growth has been more exciting than anything else because it gives us more opportunities to give experiences to everyone attending. There have been challenges adjusting to that — making sure we’re giving everyone the experience they know and love from the first year but making sure it’s never exactly the same because there’s obviously an element of adjusting it year after year.
RB: What can festivalgoers expect from Firefly 2016?
MM: We are always working to adjust the attractions. What I think is really unique is that we take fan feedback and surveys so seriously, whether that’s in our talent lineup or on social media. We’re always asking who our next performer should be. We comb through all of that in the fall, and we make adjustments or even add something completely new. One thing we had new last year was “the beercade” which was taking our attraction “the arcade” since year one and upgrading it so that it had this really cool bar lounge area as well. We saw feedback that people loved it, and going into 2016 we want to make sure the bar service is faster and maybe provide more options for food and drink. We’re always taking the feedback into consideration.
RB: What are you most excited for from Firefly 2016?
MM: I’m always excited to just see the end result. To be quite honest, it’s a little unpredictable. We have all these visions in mind and it’s planning, planning, planning. I look forward to seeing what it looks like when that final light switch turns on, when people interact with the site and seeing where people go first in the brewery. You never really know how something’s going to be used, interpreted or interacted with until it’s happening.
RB: Tell me about Firefly’s new college program.
MM: We’re still working on exactly what it will consist of, but our biggest goal is to more directly relate to college students since that’s one of our largest demos. We want to get involved with campuses early, and we wrap that into the event planning itself to make it easier for college-aged groups to make it to Firefly. We added group packing this year and one of our goals with that is to make a really exciting way to let a group of 30 people — whether it’s student leadership, philanthropy or Greek life — all come together and have a dedicated site on our camping area to be there as a group. That’ll be a really awesome benefit; The camping experience at Firefly is unlike anything else.
RB: Is the group camping exclusively for college students?
MM: We left it more general so that it wasn’t just for college students, the idea being that even an alumni or a young professionals organization could come and do it. But the vision behind the package was for the college audience. It’s a tent-only camping space that gives you access to shower facilities, overnight parking for a certain number of vehicles, and an upgraded package has a private restroom and an additional shade tent for the group to hang out.
RB: How did you get into the music events industry?
MM: It was a surprising twist of events; When I was in school I was involved in Dance Marathon, which drove an interest in event organization. A friend of mine introduced me to Red Frog Events, and I fell in love with the company and came on board as an intern. In between my interview and coming on board, they announced Firefly. I was excited because music festivals were always a passion of mine. As soon as they announced it, I knew even more than ever that Red Frog would be an amazing opportunity for me, and I really dove into working for it early on in my internship experience.
RB: What is your day-to-day like in the planning process?
MM: This time of year is a really exciting time because we’re spending a lot of time looking at surveys and feedback and putting together a plan of action for how we’re going to make 2016 a standout and improve on the 2015 experience. We’re wrapping up on that now. Looking forward, we’ll be securing our vendors and the details of how to bring to life the festival. Day to day, I have meetings with our direct team to facilitate the best action plan and building the puzzle pieces of the vision we’ve put together for next year. It’s meetings, and it’s phone calls; Ultimately every day looks different building up to the festival.
RB: What is your day-to-day like during the festival?
MM: We look at the festival in three areas: build, show and strike. The day-to-day is different for each. Build is focusing on the site plan and making sure we’re working with our tent timelines to make sure our creative and constructive teams can get into place, to get all the small details in place. It’s working with our lighting vendors, it’s training staff that are coming to site to start their area work of specialty. During the show itself, we’re constantly moving to make sure we’re addressing any issue or behind the scenes challenge before it affects our festivalgoers. It’s shade where we want it to be; If the wind picks up, we run out and put down umbrellas — every day is different, and it’s a million tiny things. Strike is a focus on efficient breakdown with as much detail that goes into building. It’s making sure our vendors have efficient close-down processes, making sure we can leave the venue with a clean slate for next year and that we’re closing out with all of our contacts and then we return to Chicago [where Red Frog Events is headquartered].
RB: Is Firefly the only festival you work on at Red Frog?
MM: I work on the festivals’ brand table, which oversees event experience for the Great American Beer Classic and ShamrockFest. I spend most of my time working on event experience for each of the festival brands. Personally, I also oversee merchandise development for all festival brands. The majority of my time is spent on the Firefly Big Barrel [Country Music Festival] experience. This year we are rebranding the Great American Beer Classic to Chicago Beer Classic, which we’ve announced today, so it’s been an exciting opportunity to put in time with those brands as well.
RB: Is there anything else you’d like to add about 2016 festival?
MM: This year more than ever we’ve really put a lot of attention into that fan experience and fan surveys, and we’re just so excited to be back in 2016 with an amazing lineup. Having everyone excited and engaged early in the year will make for an amazing experience for our fans and festivalgoers.