Funhouse Fest gets a standing ovation

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

The massive tent is gone, the lawn of Colonial Williamsburg's Art Museums largely quiet. But the initial verdict is in, and organizers are calling Williamsburg's first-ever Funhouse Fest a success.

"I've gotten nothing but fantastic feedback from people," Rob Cross, Virginia Arts Festival director, said Monday.

Though Virginia Arts Festival hasn't yet calculated numbers, Cross noticed Saturday drew the largest number of people. Friday came in second, he said, with Sunday drawing the smallest crowd.

But it wasn't the number of tickets sold that surprised Cross as much as the reach of ticket sales.

"We knew it would draw outside the market, but I don't think we appreciate how much it would sell out of the market," he said.

Generally, Virginia Arts Festival's market draws attendees from the mid-Atlantic area, but Cross mentioned ticket buyers from places as far away as Ireland and Australia.

Cross said there probably could've been more food trucks, and there definitely could've been more wine.

"We ran out of wine the first night," he said.

Cynthia West, Virginia Arts Festival's public relations director, attributed the weekend's success to teamwork.

"Colonial Williamsburg, the City of Williamsburg, the Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism (Alliance) and then Bruce Hornsby's whole management team were all very instrumental in making the weekend go so well," West said.

Karen Riordan, president and CEO of Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, said the chamber supported the festival through financial and promotional means.

"I think the feedback from tourists, as well as locals has been extremely positive," Riordan said. "We're very interested in doing more of these kind of performing arts festivals in the spring and summer and fall going forward."

Andy Barker, Deputy Chief of Police for the City of Williamsburg, said the festival went smoothly – no incidents occurred.

"I think it was successful, and I think that they had the number of people that we were expecting for a first-year event," Barker said.

"We saw lots of families there, which was wonderful," Barker continued.

Rivers Crawford, 2, bounced atop his dad's shoulders as the two, both barefoot, moved to the music of Taj Mahal Trio on Funhouse Fest's last day.

Fielding Crawford, his dad, recalled the time his own parents took him to see Bruce Hornsby in 1986 at the College of William and Mary.

Crawford said the '86 performance was probably his first concert. This past weekend, Funhouse Fest was Rivers' first real concert experience, too.

Later that day, Hampton resident Robert Ellis leaned on the railing near the front of the tent, waiting for Hornsby to take the stage one last time. A big Hornsby and Grateful Dead fan, Ellis said he had attended all three days of the festival.

"It's an awesome little deal," he said. "Hopefully, they'll do it again."

So, the question now looms: will there be Funhouse Fest round two?

Cross said that even with all of the positive indications, the Virginia Arts Festival team still has to sit down with Funhouse partners to evaluate the festival and if it makes sense to do it again. Those conversations likely won't occur until late July, Cross said.

"I did get a message from (Bruce) this morning saying thanks for a great weekend," he said.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

To see photos and videos from Funhouse Fest, visit vagazette.com.

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