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Firefly fans get four days of heat and rock and roll

Festival to return June 14-17, 2018
The best seat in the house is in a hammock in the shade near the main Firefly Music Festival stage as Judah and the Lion perform Friday afternoon. RON MACARTHUR PHOTO
June 16, 2017

In Delaware, it's pretty easy to find familiar faces – even with tens of thousands of people wandering the Woodlands at Dover International Speedway for the sixth annual Firefly Music Festival.

On the way to Dogfish Head's beer tent near the main stage where Bob Dylan performed June 17, Sam and Mariah Calagione could be found greeting admiring fans.

“My family and my company looks forward to it every year,” Sam said as he walked toward the Dogfish tent for his first beer of the day.

Personally, he said, he's psyched to see Weezer, Franz Ferdinand, Chance the Rapper and Dylan.

“We love Firefly,” Mariah said, adding that 50 local employees are invited to work the large tent during the four-day festival that ended Sunday, June 18.

Nearby, sipping a SeaQuench Ale, Cape Region businesswoman Stephanie Boright was enjoying her sixth Firefly Music Festival experience.

“We're Dogfish groupies,” she joked, adding that it seems like Firefly gets bigger and better every year.

“And people here want good beer,” she said. Compared to recent years battling dust and mud, the muggy 83-degree day was perfect, Boright said, thanks to the slight breeze.

While crowds may seem a little smaller, the energy levels are the same, Sam said. Event organizers estimated about 90,000 people attended the festival, while fans and festival workers say that number was likely 30 percent less.

“The energy is great,” he said as he got pulled away by another crowd of strangers doting over his off-centered brews.

Just a few steps away, Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan enjoyed a break with her husband, Chris.

She was there for the talent, she said, but traffic logistics are never far from mind.

“We really have this down to a science,” she said. DelDOT crews worked 24-7 to keep an eye on traffic, but with the majority of music lovers setting up camp in the Woodlands, most of the congestion had subsided by the time headliners took the stage.

“We were working with Red Frog nine months in advance,” she said. “And we have a heightened sense of awareness, with this being a festival and with everything happening overseas.”

She said Delaware State Police and local police departments from each of Delaware's three counties kept an eye on traffic and security. Those officers were aided by festival producer Red Frog Event's private security as well as undercover agents, she said.

“But I'm not here just doing logistics, I'm a fan,” she said, adding that she was excited to check out performances by Weezer, Twenty One Pilots and to check a Dylan performance off of her bucket list.

The festival was spared from a three day forecast of thunderstorms and lightning, which could have posed safety risks. In 2015, Firefly was evacuated for the first time as a tornado warning swept the area just before headliner Kings of Leon was set to take the stage. 

Firefly Music Festival will return to the Woodlands Thursday, June 14, through Sunday, June 17, 2018. For more, go to www.fireflyfestival.com.