Funhouse Fest delivers the fun

and Contact Reporterjmckinnon@vagazette.com; jojacobs@vagazette.com

WILLIAMSBURG — Concertgoers waiting to enter Funhouse Fest late Friday afternoon before the gates opened seemed to each have a story about Bruce Hornsby.

The crowd had arrived early, hoping to snag ideal lawn seats for Williamsburg's three-day music festival that kicked off Friday evening on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Williamsburg's native son, the Grammy-award winner Bruce Hornsby, had brought his friends Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder along with him, and those waiting were excited for the show.

Gene Johnson, 71, recounted a conversation he once had with Hornsby's father:

"His dad told me, 'The best investment I ever made was sending him to music school,'" Gene said.

Gene and his wife Cheryl have lived in Williamsburg since 1973, and even though they don't know Hornsby personally, their interactions with his family over the years have forged a connection.

"Believe it or not, Williamsburg used to be a small town," said Cheryl, who was wearing a shirt from a Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers concert. "We knew his mom (Lois Hornsby) and my kids grew up loving his music."

Joe McClain, who lives in James City County, entertained the line with a story about seeing Hornsby perform in 1995. McClain said he saw Bruce Hornsby play at the inaugural concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Jerry Garcia had just died, so Bruce Hornsby called for a moment of silence. Then he played (the Grateful Dead song) 'Scarlet Begonias,'" McClain said. "(Hornsby's) rendition of the song was particularly poignant, but the sublime became the ridiculous when James Brown got on the stage."

Rain earlier in the day on Friday gave way to a sunny and warm evening, perfect for the outdoor festival.

A tent with 1,776 seats, a nod to Williamsburg's colonial roots, was set up in front of the stage with plenty of space on the lawn for lounging in lawn chairs and on picnic blankets.

The opening minutes of the festival were interrupted by a brief power outage, then the entertainment continued.

Doran Hornsby, a cousin of Bruce Hornsby, said he is "sweating for (my) cousin" by keeping Bruce's audience well stocked with Tradition beer (where he works) on what is projected to be a warm weekend.

Tradition is a relatively new craft brewery located in Newport News, one of several craft breweries with taps at Funhouse Fest.

Although tickets for Friday night's performance ran from $29.95 to $100, many fans had volunteered to help staff the event in order to attend for free.

Kevin and Amy Patterson came up from Virginia Beach to help usher concertgoers to their seats. The couple planned to work the event for the evening, then stay in a bed-and-breakfast before heading home tomorrow.

"Events in Williamsburg are just so unique," Amy Patterson, 60, said.

"And once everyone gets seated we get to just listen to the music," Kevin Patterson, 59, said.

A group of middle school and high school students, enjoying their first week of the summer, lay in the grass in front of a concession stand. The group consisted of volunteers from Indigo Park Pool in Williamsburg, and members had come to help raise money for the pool.

Emma Moyer, 12, said her job was "fetching food for the customers."

The group was one of many nonprofits who had set up shop at the festival, in conjunction with William and Mary Dining Services. The groups get to keep a portion of the proceeds from the food they sell, said Jason Vercammen, the retail operations manager for William and Mary Dining Services.

Gary Wright, 67, is a volunteer at Funhouse Fun who already has a couple music festivals under his belt.

The Newport News resident said his favorite part of festivals is the opportunity to meet new people. At Funhouse Fest, Wright will help operate one of the beer tap trucks. Now retired, Wright fills his time with volunteering at festivals and for causes such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula.

Wright decided to make the trek up the Peninsula after he heard from his neighbors, seasoned festival volunteers themselves, that Funhouse needed more help to make the fest a success.

The event will run until 9:15 p.m. Sunday. Saturday and Sunday single-day tickets are still available.

McKinnon can be reached at 757-345-2341. Jacobs can be reached at 804-269-1769.

Lineup for this weekend:

Saturday:

Box office opens at 11 a.m.

Gates open at 1 p.m.

Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison – 4 to 4:45 p.m.

Railroad Earth – 5:15 to 6:30 p.m.

Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle – 7 to 8:15 p.m.

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers – 8:45 to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday:

Box office opens at 11 a.m.

Gates open at 1 p.m.

Chessboxer – 3 to 3:45 p.m.

Aoife O'Donovan – 4:15 to 5 p.m.

Taj Mahal Trio – 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers – 7:15 to 9:15 p.m.

Weather

Saturday:

Day description: Cloudy skies early in day shift to partly cloudy later.

Night description: Clear skies in early evening give way to scattered clouds later. High: 83 degrees

Low: 63 degrees

Chance of rain: 20 percent during day, 10 percent during night.

Sunset: 8:31 p.m.

Sunday:

Day description: Sun with a few clouds during day.

Night description: Some clouds overnight.

High: 84 degrees

Low: 65 degrees

Chance of rain: 10 percent during day, 10 percent during night.

Sunset: 8:31 p.m.

Parking

Event parking is available at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. Colonial Williamsburg buses will shuttle between the festival area and the visitor center throughout the weekend. Shuttle buses are free to use, said Andy Barker, Williamsburg Police Department deputy chief of police. The designated bus stop for the festival is located at South Henry Street and Duke of Gloucester Street, Barker said.

Shuttle hours of operation

Saturday: 9 a.m. to midnight

Sunday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Attendees with Elite ticket packages may park in the VIP parking lot located on Nassau Street.

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