Funhouse Fest setup begins ahead of weekend festivities

The return of Bruce Hornsby’s Funhouse Fest is finally upon us. At 6:30 a.m. Monday, organizers assembled on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg to begin assembling the massive tent that will soon cover much of the site's space. Preliminary setup commenced at 9 a.m. Sunday, and preparation will continue throughout the week leading up to the weekend’s festivities.

“This is definitely a year-round project,” said Gregg Damanti, the production director for the Virginia Arts Festival. He and his organization held numerous meetings with Hornsby’s production team, the city of Williamsburg, security firms and more in an effort to ensure a fun and safe weekend.

“The folks at Colonial Williamsburg are great partners on this project. Same with the city of Williamsburg,” Damanti said. “It makes things easy. It seems everyone is moving toward making a successful event.”

This week, all the talk becomes reality. They spent Monday setting up the tent’s frame; on Tuesday, they will set up the tent’s canvas. It will ultimately stand at 100 feet wide by 196 feet long and seat 1,776, the same as last year’s festival. The rest of the week will see the stage, lights, sound equipment and more stretch across the lawn. This year, the site will extend across Francis Street for extra lawn seating, and the restrooms will move there as well.

“It’s a bit bigger this year,” Damanti said. “We haven’t had any problems.”

That even extends to the breezy, cloudy weather thus far. He said last year’s setup was accompanied by sunny, 95 degree weather, something he doesn’t miss.

“The big question mark is the weather,” he said, but he stressed that guests need not worry too much.  “The great thing about having a tent is you can still have a show.”

The festival is incorporating more plywood on the lawn this year in case of rain, and organizers started building the tent a day early just in case.

The festival hires dozens of workers from around the area to help with the event as contractors, stage crew and more. This boosts the local economy, a highlight of the endeavor for Damanti.

He said last year’s setup was smooth overall, although there was a small hiccup when they tried to bring in lights after erecting the stage. They had to take apart about a quarter of the stage to make way. This time around, they plan to move lights in Wednesday morning before tackling the stage later that day.

Damanti will be helping out over the weekend as well, eager to enjoy the performances while he manages the two stages.

“We get to see some really great entertainment,” he said.

The festival hopes to finish setting up by Thursday afternoon, after which they’ll face two city inspections to ensure everything is ready for the weekend’s crowds.

Damanti said he’s grateful to Hornsby for bringing such an event along with new music along to the area.

“It gives folks in this region an opportunity to see bands that you might have to travel to California, to Coachella, to see,” he said. “It really puts Williamsburg on the map.”

Funhouse Fest runs Friday through Sunday on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. For tickets and more information, visit funhousefest.com.

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