I started my festival service camping business in 1998, after having the idea pop into my head immediately following that wonderful festival, Merlefest, in North Carolina in April. The 2 1/2 day drive home from the festival gave me ample time to think think think about my new venture; my mind was reeling and the miles were also. When I arrived home the first phone call was to a good friend who is a successful businessman, lawyer, and someone whose judgment I trust due to his obvious success in business. The second call was to a festival promoter in Florida whose reaction was very positive...and I was on a roll.
Then the third call was made, to a festival that was held in New York and named "Winterhawk". I had heard good things about this festival during my festival trips to both Merlefest and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado. In the back of the Merlefest program there was an advertisement for Winterhawk, which was being held in July. (and the lineup was outstanding!) I called the contact number and the business idea damned near sprung to life immediately!
Lisa had answered the Winterhawk phone and her reaction to the idea was enthusiastic and positive, to say the least! In the course of the next couple of weeks we talked on the phone a few times a day, becoming fast friends and knocking around ideas pertaining to my business idea and the festival and music and on and on... She presented my idea to Mary Doub, the festival promoter, who also gave an enthusiastic "thumbs-up"..and "Dancin'Dave'sFestivalCamping" was officially off the ground!
Lisa also started advertising my business, telling folks that my service would make its debut in July! Now...I had not yet bought one tent, didn't even hardly know how to spell "komputre", and had no business experience whatsoever. My very first customer was Hans, a fellow who lives in Austria and knows everything there is to know about bluegrass, from its beginnings to the present; but at the same time had never been to a bluegrass festival. His research had told him that he should come to Winterhawk, so he was planning his first trip to this country specifically to attend the festival...and he needed accommodations! Because of a talk with Lisa, he was literally waiting for me to buy a computer so he could email and book a tent! (whew....email?!)
So...I became a businessman; didn't really have much of a choice at this point. >g< I became the owner of many tents, sleeping bags, cots, etc., etc., etc..... I bought a computer and after a friend set up a website for me I suddenly realized that I was advertising all over the world; a bit daunting, along with being damned exciting.
I managed to book four customers before I left home, and off to New York for the first time I went. When I arrived at the site and asked some folks how to find Lisa I was told that she's up on the "hill". As I was driving up the hill for the first time I remember thinking: "wow...they hold these bluegrass festivals in the damndest places!" This "hill" was located on a farm and at that point the festival had been held there for over twenty years already...and it was beautiful! Over time I came to have a love for the hill and at the same time a feeling of intimidation and even at times a feeling of terror, because the possibility of disaster was always present. There were very few sections of the venue that were flat and most of it was at a steep incline, making for a dangerous situation particularly during rain. At the same time the sunsets were about the most spectacular that I've ever witnessed, and I also came to consider the week spent on the hill every summer to be a great way to get into shape! (working and climbing and dancing on that hill was great exercise...)
So that first night I met Lisa face to face and we of course "hit it off" at an even "higher" level, and my festival fun was about to become even more fun! The Winterhawk staff was staying in a big ol' hunting lodge located a few miles from the venue, so that first night Lisa and I went to visit. She didn't really know exactly where this lodge was, so we managed to get very lost. During this lost adventure we ran into another friend of Mary's who was also lost, but eventually we found the lodge. There was no one there and the place was beautiful and we had a ball exploring. I by then needed a shower badly so I took one in an upstairs bathroom. After the shower I came downstairs, drying my hair with a towel, wearing only a pair of shorts, when I heard talk coming from the screened-in pool area. I was invited in and sheepishly entered, feeling way out of place, to tell the truth. Turned out that the festival staff was having a meeting/party in the pool area. It was then that I met Mary, who stood up and walked over to introduce herself. She introduced everyone else and I was immediately impressed with the friendliness and acceptance of me into this pre-festival meeting. There were several times that my opinion was asked for; they knew that I had been to many other festivals and were eager to see what I thought. I felt very privileged to be included in this meeting and couldn't have been more impressed with this new group of friends that I was making!
Anyhoo....the years have gone by, the name of the festival has been changed to "Grey Fox" and even the venue has been changed. The core and heart of the festival has not changed however....Mary Doub has built a wonderfully loyal, energetic, totally dedicated to putting on the best festival possible staff of folks that I both admire and love. This dedication and love for a festival permeates down through the volunteers, the vendors, the artists that make the wonderful music, and especially the attendees. Mary and her staff are always open to ideas that may make the festival even better, to the point of holding what amounts to a "town meeting" during the festival itself....where the attendees are encouraged to voice their concerns for things that they see as problems and also their praise for all the things that they deem are done right. This in itself amazes and impresses the hell out of me...
I am damned lucky to be able to attend many great, high-quality festivals because of my business. I am asked often if I have a favorite festival and it would be an almost impossible question to answer if it weren't for the reasons that I just explained.....