Amid pandemic, Floyd holds on to musical roots
The town of Floyd has long been known for its musical offerings, particularly Friday night jamborees at the Floyd Country Store and the annual world folk music-focused FloydFest. So, what happens when public events are called off by the coronavirus pandemic?
Dylan Locke, co-owner of the Floyd Country Store, has hosted online streaming of old-time string music live performances, but it’s tough when the performers are playing to empty rooms, he acknowledges.
“When the experience is gone, when there are no dancers, when there are no musicians on stage, it’s a little different,” he says. “We, like a lot of small businesses and a lot of music-centric businesses, are managing the best we can. In some ways, our main product is an experience.”
The same may be said for the outdoor FloydFest, which did not take place in July for the first time in its 20-year run. The multiday festival, which typically draws about 15,000 people, is a significant revenue generator for Patrick County, where the festival takes place, and also produces healthy sales for the town of Floyd.
Sam Calhoun, chief operating officer of Roanoke-based Across-the-Way Productions, which puts on the festival, says its economic impact is between $2 million and $3 million. It also employs roughly 400 people regionally and draws close to the same number of volunteers.
So far, about 80% of ticketholders for the 2020 event have rolled over their tickets for next July’s concert instead of seeking refunds, Calhoun says, and headliners The Avett Brothers have confirmed they’ll perform in 2021.
“It becomes a family reunion for so many people,” Calhoun adds. “Most of our patrons can’t remember an annual cycle when we didn’t have a celebration on the mountainside.”
Floyd Country Store also is managing better than other businesses, in part because the store has other income streams, including a music school and sales of food and other general-store staples. Also, a group calling itself the “Friends of the Floyd Country Store” launched a fundraiser in July that had raised $60,000 for the store as of early October. The store also received federal Paycheck Protection Program funding, which Locke used to save the store’s 30 to 35 jobs.
Locke says that the town of Floyd’s artists are still facing hard times, but its identity as a creative place isn’t in doubt. “That’s going to survive the pandemic. It’s authentic.”