Hey, it’s me again. Don’t know who I am? Go back and read Part 1! Most likely you’ve already inhaled my first post and have been anxiously awaiting my next- and here it is (finally!):
We’re back at Firefly Music Festival. It’s about 10:30AM on the Festival’s first full day of music and I am in Event Planner Wonderland. If you’ve ever been to a music festival before, you may or may not have noticed that the entire perimeter is usually fenced. Little do most people know, there is an entire other festival going on behind this fence- a busy, complex, high-energy festival of logistical magic. Zipping through back roads, I pass security trailers, catering tents, transportation posts, backstage access points and much more. These back roads accumulate to miles as they wrap around the festival’s nucleus.
We’re at the height of activity this morning as everything and everyone finalizes positions. It’s t-minus 90 minutes until gates open and the most eager of music fans descend upon their first selected stage of the day. As the anticipated 95,000 attendees are slapping on sunscreen and hyping themselves up for the day, I’m watching security and first aid responders move into place. The 550+ security personnel work in mini-units to cover areas within areas within areas around the grounds. The chain of command is lengthy but strong. This isn’t the team’s first rodeo; they’re prepared to respond to the usual suspect situations. Said incidents include intoxicated guests, heat exhaustion and dehydration. But there’s a not-so-typical player in the festival challenge game. The night prior, the area experienced heavy rainfall and it looks as though there’s more on its way. Pop quiz: how many festival-goers are prepared with rain resistant outfits and shoes? I’ll give you a clue; not as many as who decided to go barefoot. The Woodlands are called as such for a reason. The event organizers actually had to cut down trees in order to create pass-throughs, so you can imagine what shape the more heavily forested spots are in after the prior night’s downpour. How do you encourage free-spirited, music-loving millennials to be mindful of where they’re wandering? I took it upon myself to find out.
As the gates opened and The Woodlands became alive, I continued on my exploration of the site. On my walk, I came across one of the loveliest ideas I’ve ever seen- Hammock Hangout. It’s a secluded, zen-inducing wooded cove where countless hammocks were strung up to trees. What a wonderful way to enjoy the music! Due to the rainfall however, trees had started to uproot under the weight of hammock users. Luckily, this area was small and easily controlled but security continued to monitor the area and take direction from their colleagues in the command post as to whether this spot, among others, was safe enough to remain accessible. Command post, you ask? Sounds like Big Brother, I know. All around the festival there were cameras. Watching big and small crowds; open areas and closed, this post was located in the back-of-house, back in my Event Planner Wonderland. In this post you would have found experts in law enforcement, health + safety, security, and weather. As members of one of the top levels in the chain of command, these folks were disseminating information to their deployed teams around festival grounds, as well as responding to intel given to them by those on-the-ground one peg below them on the totem pole. I found that pretty incredible. One level above them, completely offsite, was another crew monitoring weather patterns, local and national news, local and national security threats, and everything else that’s important. Pretty cool, huh?
Even with these key players and all of the on-the-ground staff, you’ve got to wonder how information gets to so many people. Come Saturday afternoon, Firefly was looking at rain’s return but this time, she showed up with her friends thunder and lightning. Cue the potential for pandemonium. While some level of chaos is bound to come with a predicament like this, the Festival organizers took to leveraging their event app, social media visibility, stage screens and onsite personnel to warn guests of the potential weather threat throughout the day. When the decision was ultimately made to evacuate the grounds, social media and the event app became crucial ways to keep guests informed. As an event planner, I’m well aware that the power of word-of-mouth trumps all. By the organizers leveraging tools they already knew people were using, they were able to control what the traveling message was.
Luckily, I got out of there well before the storm. For those who were sent back to their cars and tents, I can only imagine the copious amounts of Heads Up and thumb wars that were played that evening, not to mention the many new friendships that were formed. In my next post, I want to dive into how Firefly engaged its audience by giving them more than music. It’s coming soon, I promise. Patience is a virtue.
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