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Rain or shine, Funhouse Fest plays on

Over the weekend, thousands flocked to an enormous tent and lawn in Williamsburg to eat, drink, listen to music and stay dry — if possible.

The third annual Funhouse Fest presented by the Virginia Arts Festival was held Friday and Saturday on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

The combined lineup from the two nights included Alison Krauss, Deva Mahal, Angela on the Arts, The Wood Brothers, Gibb Droll, Amos Lee and Chris Forsyth.

Bruce Hornsby performed twice, once with his band the Noisemakers and again with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

Together, the musicians formed an eclectic blend of folk, singer-songwriter Americana, blues, country and classical.

At times, the artists joined each other on stage, “cross-pollinating,” as Virginia Arts Festival Director Robert Cross put it.

Thunderstorms interrupted Hornsby and the Noisemakers mid-set about 8 p.m. Friday, forcing the audience to evacuate and return later for headliner Alison Krauss around 9:30 p.m.

When gates opened Saturday, the sun was playing peekaboo behind dark clouds. Light showers came and went before the sky cleared up after 5:30 p.m.

Alli Pereira, the Virginia Arts Festival public relations manager, said she was praying to the weather gods.

Watching the weather throughout the evening, Williamsburg Fire Chief Pat Dent said it wasn’t the rain he was worried about as much as the lightning. Sweating in the humidity, he’d already given up on staying dry.

When it began to drizzle, some camped out under magnolia trees. Some just got wet.

Despite the weather — and being condensed from three days to two — Cross said the event likely sold just as many if not more tickets than previous years.

Trucks and tents selling local food and craft beer crowded Francis Street at the venue.

Lounging in a baseball cap and tie-dye shirt, chef Jim Kennedy of the food truck Foodatude pointed to a cheese-filled hot dog in his hand.

“Sometimes, people just like the simple things,” he said.

At the festival, Alewerks Brewing Company served their exclusive American pale ale, called the Noisemaker for Hornsby’s band.

Sitting the merchandise tent, among hats, koozies, T-shirts and tapestries, staff member Jo Manley said everything they were selling was cool, but the $5 drink ticket was the hottest item.

On her first visit to Williamsburg, opening act Deva Mahal said she wasn’t ready for the heat.

Peering into her closet earlier, she said she thought, “What can I wear that’s next to nothing, but isn’t, you know, rude?”

Mahal settled on a black tanktop, brown skirt and a flowing pink and green kimono.

While performing, she danced across the stage, in front of a sea of instruments and a light fog reflecting in the stagelights.

After each song, she reached for a bottle of water.

Charley Knox, one of the event volunteers, listened across the field from the lost-and-found tent.

Newport News natives, Knox and his wife volunteer to do something together. He isn’t a big music fan, but he said he was having a good time.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Knox said. “Whether your’e pouring beer, watching under the tent or at the lost and found, there’s something here.”

Also the principal percussionist for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Crosshas been working with Hornsby since the early 90s.

Expecting to wear slacks and a button-down, Cross said he was pleasantly surprised when Hornsby told him there was no dress code.

Cross said the artists blew him away. He would walk around the lawn, watching the crowd and gauging their reactions.

He always enjoys performing, but over the weekend, Cross said watching other musicians from the audience was better.

On Saturday, playing with Hornsby in the orchestra, Cross was able to do both. Performing and observing at the same time, Cross said he was again amazed at Hornsby’s talent.

“It’s fantastic to be that close,” Cross said.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
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