Firefly Music Festival and a Never-Ending Dream
guest written by Alyssa DiCaterino
The northeast can be a great place to visit for festival season and Firefly Festival is no exception to that rule. Located in Delaware, this 4 year old festival has gained popularity rather quickly. Hosting 7 stages and a wide variety of musicians, Firefly seems to be a festie fan favorite.
Firefly Quick Facts:
Crowd Type: Hipsters, Family, Indie, Ravers, Trendy
Music Genre: Folk, EDM, Indie, Pop, Rock, Alternative, Rap, Hip Hop, Soul, R&B, House
How To Get There
For anyone travelling by train or plane, Dover is a reasonable distance from Wilmington, Philadelphia, NYC, Baltimore, and DC; I found flying into Philly was my best bet. There were no specific shuttle passes for purchase through Firefly, but AABuses and DART busses offered service to the area for a small fee (the festival’s website offers a list of routes). The closest a train will get you is Wilmington, but a DART bus can take you from the Wilmington station to the festival in Dover. For non-campers, I highly recommend Uber as day parking is quite a distance from the entrance.
Where To Stay
Camping seems to be the most popular and easiest option. With different camping, glamping, and RV packages, Firefly has a lot to offer when it comes to overnight hospitality. If you’re not one to camp, there are plenty of hotels in the Dover area. Firefly even offers travel packages with Dover Downs or Holiday Inn that include a shuttle to and from the hotel/festival. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, hotels in Wilmington/Newark tend to be more economical, but will put you about a 45 minute drive away from festival grounds.
My experience with Firefly camping comes secondhand, and though no one I talked to had any specific complaints about the conditions, it seemed that the majority of campers would have preferred a hotel (I think they felt a little smelly after the first day due to some rain and mud). The camping areas weren’t too far of a walk from the main festival grounds, but enough distance was certainly put between noise and sleeping ears. Take note, camping passes are not included with a festival pass; the two must be purchased separately.
One element of camping that I thought was pretty amazing is the Code Purple project: campers have to option to leave their gear as is—no need to pack up your tent or anything else—and have items donated to Kent County Code Purple, a project solely funded by donations. Any usable items such as sleeping bags, tents, bed rolls, reusable water bottles, lanterns, flashlights, clothing, footwear and nonperishable food items were cleaned and donated to the homeless community of Kent County through Code Purple.
I’m just going to start off by saying: they had a Chipotle vendor. What more could you possibly ask for?
Just kidding! I actually found myself asking for a lot more, especially vegan Hawaiian noodles that were packed with veggies to keep my energy levels strong through day three. Dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc.) were certainly accommodated, but for those who enjoy indulging in pizza/fries/funnel cake, an array of guilty pleasure junk food options were also offered. Plenty of food, water, and other beverages were for sale everywhere, including several free water refill stations throughout the fest.
The overwhelmingly large area of Firefly made my heart soar upon first entering. But with a whopping eight stages (four main stages, three smaller ones, and the Toyota tent), some set overlap was bound to happen. Fortunately, Red Frog organized the fest so that many artists performed multiple times on a given day, giving fans ample opportunity to catch their favorites (I think I saw Saint Motel about four times on Day 2).
The artistic flourishes added to The Pavilion, Treehouse, and Coffeehouse made these my favorite stages. The Pavilion was a more enclosed space with cloud-like white spheres on the ceiling that were especially eye-catching at night. The Treehouse and the Coffeehouse were perfect for more intimate sets, with pretty wooden designs that fit the fest’s woodland theme nicely.
Artists You May Not Have Heard of But Can’t Miss
Cobi stole my heart with his performance on the Treehouse stage, and I was lucky enough to tell him so. The 29-year-old Minnesota native now lives in LA, perfecting his Hozier-like sound while simultaneously rocking out on the guitar. This was his first time at Firefly, and hands down one of the best performances I saw all weekend. A bit more background: Cobi started playing piano at age seven, and was inspired to learn guitar by the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page. He was a member of the band Gentlemen Hall for seven years before going off on his own, and I’m beyond excited to see what the rest of his musical career has in store.
Things To Do
-get your game on with foosball, skee ball, or pinball at The Beercade
-grab a drink at the on-site craft beer bar, The Brewery
-explore ten different shops all housed in The Market (conveniently located next to locker rentals)
-meet some of your favorite artists at the FYE signing tent
-take a nap in The Hammock Hangout…if you’re lucky enough snag an empty hammock
-my personal favorite: hustle and bump on over to The Thicket for a silent disco—fun to partake in and hilarious to watch
Why Go VIP?
Some might consider a VIP pass worth the money for free drinks, real bathrooms (not port-a-potties), and air conditioned areas to chill out in. But, the viewing areas don’t get you any closer to the acts than a GA ticket; just being patient and waiting out the crowds got me way closer than I would have ever been in VIP.
A Super VIP pass is quite a lot of money, but if you have it to spend, definitely worth it. Viewing areas were killer; Super VIP pass holders got to stand right where security guards usually stand. There was even an onstage viewing area at the Firefly stage, plus access to the artist lounge. To sum it all up: VIP= eh. Super VIP= hell yeah.
What Makes The Festival Different?
One thing I saw at Firefly that I don’t see too often was charity. In addition to the Code Purple project, Firefly also partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help facilitate donations made through the festival. Those who donate can score all sorts of goodies, and are entered to win prizes including meet and greets with various artists.
Like many outdoor adventures, weather can be unpredictable…I’m still peeling from a sunburn despite wet conditions for a good chunk of the weekend (rain seems to be a Firefly tradition). Temperatures fluctuate quite a bit, so feel free to dress to impress, but definitely bring along some layers for the evening.
Everything that makes Firefly a dream come true starts before even entering the festival grounds. The people were happy as can be—free hugs and high fives all around, even a marching band paraded in with us as though they were announcing our entrance. Security was nice and polite to everyone, giving out lots of compliments and making sure anyone in the crowd that needed water got it free of charge. I even caught some of them letting loose at the silent disco, and when a few of us got up on the Treehouse stage to dance during M83’s set, the guards who originally set out to get us down danced with us instead, thanks to a “Hey it’s OK,” from a friendly crewmember. Talk about a dream…one that I can’t wait to relive next year.