Funhouse Fest 2017 bids farewell

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

As the dust settles on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg following the conclusion of this year's Funhouse Fest, music fans can reflect on a weekend of old favorites and new discoveries.

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers as well as Sheryl Crow headlined Friday night. At the end of Crow's set, Hornsby joined her for a performance of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider."

Mark Hammond and his wife, Cathy, came out from Newport News for one day of last year's inaugural Funhouse Fest, and they enjoyed it so much that they bought a three-day pass for its return.

"We really enjoyed the first night, seeing Sheryl Crow put on an awesome show," he said, adding that he enjoyed Hornsby's set of Grateful Dead songs Saturday night as well. "He did a great job on that."

Other weekend performers included Lake Street Dive, the Staves and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra String Quartet.

Cathy Carlson and her husband, Greg, ventured from Virginia Beach Sunday to see the country blues of Rhiannon Giddens, who concluded the festival. The couple's son saw Giddens perform in New York City and introduced her music to them.

"It's a local party," she said of the festival, impressed by Hornsby's lineup as well as his acoustic set with Sonny Emory on the final day. "This is awesome. It's like you're in his backyard and he's playing."

She and her husband would "absolutely" come back again.

The forecast threatened to put a damper on festivities going into the weekend, with the National Weather Service predicting rain Friday and Saturday.

"I think all the weather predictions hurt sales," said Jim Kennedy of Food-A-Tude, one of the food trucks on festival grounds. But the weather turned out beautiful, albeit warm, and his team saw success throughout the weekend.

"Friday night was really strong," he said, adding that he saw a consistent line of 50-100 people through about 9:45 p.m. "Sheryl Crow and Bruce packed them in."

Business dwindled somewhat as the weekend went on; Sunday was their slowest day. Guests ate less food over the final two days, with the truck instead selling more ice cream, soda and water. The crew saw long days, setting up around 11 a.m. or noon each day; on Saturday, they didn't leave until nearly midnight. But Kennedy said there are no regrets.

"It's a bigger event. It's a long day," he said. "But you know, it's a lot of fun. It's what we do. We'd do it again."

The festival site featured ample security presence, and the weekend saw no threats.

"There were no real, major incidents," said Maj. Greg Riley of the Williamsburg Police Department. A few people received medical treatment for issues related to overheating.

Cynthia Carter West, of the Virginia Arts Festival, said it would be some time before they make official sales figures available. But numbers were "definitely up," and a "great" many tickets were sold at the gate over the weekend as well.

For fans eager for another round, Virginia Arts Festival director Rob Cross offered some hope for the future.

"While nothing can be set in stone this quickly after an event, we're already discussing possibilities and improvements for next year with Bruce and his team," she said.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

More inside

For John Shulson's take on the music, see page 12A.

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