Blue Ridge festival rocks on — for now
UPDATED SEPT. 11: The Blue Ridge Rock Festival was canceled on Sept. 9 due to severe weather, including storms and hail. The festival’s organizers said they would provide refund details early during the week of Sept. 11.
The Blue Ridge Rock Festival is on track to sell out this year, with organizers expecting more than 50,000 fans to descend upon the Virginia International Raceway in rural Alton for four days of concerts featuring bands like Megadeth, Five Finger Death Punch and Limp Bizkit, beginning Sept. 7.
“Right now, I believe every hotel is sold out in like a 75-mile radius,” says Jon Slye, the festival’s founder and director of talent and curation. Since 2017, when Slye held the inaugural BRRF in Campbell County, the event has bounced around different venues in Central and Southern Virginia to accommodate an ever-increasing number of music fans.
VIR first hosted the festival in 2022. “It went great,” says Kerrigan Smith, the raceway’s president and chief operating officer. So, in April, BRRF organizers announced they’d agreed to a deal to hold the event at the Halifax County raceway through 2025.
“We’re now at the same spot,” Slye says. “We’re not starting from scratch and starting over every single year.”
Scott Simpson, county administrator of Halifax County, is also pleased the festival will remain at VIR. The county took in an estimated $480,000 directly from meals, lodging and sales taxes from the 2022 BRRF, and Simpson expects revenue from this year’s festival to increase by 15%. BRRF attendees spent additional money outside the raceway grounds — at restaurants, hotels and gas stations — but the county has not done an analysis of off-site revenues for the week of the 2022 event.
Despite all the money generated by festivalgoers, the BRRF has yet to turn a profit, according to Slye. One reason for that, he says, is that it’s considerably more expensive to stage a rock festival in a remote area. “Everything from Porta-Johns to electrical to staging to production — everything is just more,” he says.
Even so, Slye is reluctant to take BRRF to a larger city, because the festival is known for its rural Virginia locale.
Although Slye plans for BRRF to be held at VIR through 2025, he acknowledges that he’s had discussions with multiple companies about selling the festival, but he declined to give specifics.
“It is becoming really difficult for us to continue moving forward,” he says, “without a more feasible financial model.”