[caption id="attachment_226291" align="alignleft" width="320"] Code Purple, a Kent County nonprofit focusing on helping those struggling with homelessness, abuse, and drug addiction, held a bracelet making station at Firefly to attract attention and spread their message. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ENNIO EMMANUEL[/caption]
DOVER — Firefly Music Festival brought thousands of people to the state’s capital, providing an unusual way for some Delaware nonprofits, businesses and other services to get in the spotlight.Produced by AEG Presentsat the Dover Motor Speedway, Firefly has drawn between 40,000 and 60,000 people to Delaware each year to enjoy scores of musician acts. But turning a 105-acre site into a city within a city means there’s a marketplace with 30 food vendors, miniature cocktail lounges and a bazaar selling clothing and other souvenirs.This year, the Good Hub — Firefly’s spot to highlight nonprofit causes — had 11 organizations, including six Delaware-based service organizations. “It’s really important to share the message of giving back, and paying it forward. Sometimes that can get lost in the noise,” said Ennio Emmauel, director of operations for Code Purple. “This is a chance for outsiders and visitors to see us and Delaware and what we have to offer: a community that gives back.”Code Purple operates in Kent County and focuses on aiding those who suffer from homelessness, abuse, financial struggle and drug addiction. The organization has worked with Firefly for six years now, primarily in cleaning the campgrounds and taking goods festival-goers leave behind for their shelters.Emmanuel estimates that on average Code Purple collects 400 tarps,100 lanterns, 250 lawn chairs, 200 end tables, 1,000 sleeping bags, 2,000 pillow cases and 200 cases of water and nonperishable foods. This year 400 volunteers combed the site Monday, including some supervised middle school students.“We’re going to store it and work out what to do with it. Sometimes, we’ll take some volunteers and go to other cities and donate part of what we have there,” he added.Most of the service organizations provided activities for concert goers to do — Code Purple offered a bracelet making station so that people would stay and interact longer with their volunteers. Others like Mental Edge Counselingin Dover offered a drawing station.“Having a mental health organization makes a lot of sense for a music festival, I think,” said Eric Adams, a therapist with Mental Edge. “It can be pretty overwhelming, with sensory overload, and we’re here to offer a calm space, give people a chance to breathe and answer questions they may have.”Mental Edge was the rare for-profit service in the Good Hub, but this was not exactly its first time at Firefly. In 2018, Mental Edge employees collaborated with nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms to provide some local resources to attendees. Mental Edge was asked back in 2021 when To Write Love on Her Arms was unable to attend.“There is a little bit when it comes to marketing and getting our name out there, but the reality is that Mental Edge is about caring for others, providing support and having meaningful conversations,” Adams said. “It does help to put faces with names when it comes to mental health — and we’re passionate about that.”For Larry Normile, tattoo artist and owner of Artistic Additions Tattoos, the Firefly experience was drastically different. He and three other tattoo artists worked out of the festival’s inaugural tattoo parlor on the grounds — complete with a sterile trailer and scores of Saniderm patches, a medical grade bandage that protects the skin from dirt.“Firefly is going to take us to the next level, when it comes to branding and visibility. Just the clientele that will know us as the shop that does tattoos at Firefly, there’s incredible value in that,” Normile said. “We’re going to use every bit of it.”On Firefly’s first day, Normile’s stall saw about 137 people. Saturday brought between 2,000 and 3,000 customers, all vying for one of the 50 pre-designed tattoos advertised. Typically, Normile said it was average for him to do a tattoo a day.“My apprentice, she’s 18 years old and her line work has leveled up just with the sheer amount of work offered,” he added. “It’s incredible. Hopefully next year we can land a contract.”For many nonprofits, money and donations were a secondary thought at the festival. But others like Kristen Harootunian with Soberfly, a local initiative with the nonprofit Harmonium that supports attendees going through the four-day festival free from drugs or alcohol, did note they had received three or four times the donations than in 2021.“We’re selling stickers for a dollar, but we really see it as that people know we’re here and understand that we’re about building a community that supports enjoying festivals in a clean, sober way,” she said. “Firefly has really helped us grow our presence and attract people interested in helping out.”CAMP RehobothCommunications Manager Matty Brown said that donations had been steady on its third day, but the cashless experience the festival touted may have hampered that. Nonetheless, Brown said the real benefit was celebrating the inclusive environment Firefly was successfully mounting.CAMP Rehoboth focuses on creating a positive environment inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations in the Rehoboth Beach area.“There’s been a prevalent queer community here, and it’s definetly more visible with events like the Drag Brunch and the Pride Parade. It’s almost like a natural fit, being at Firefly,” he said. “It definitely helps us be seen and highlight our programs to so many people from out of state and may not know who we are.”Yasmine Franqui, the engagement coordinator of the Brandywine Valley SPCA, said that early on the festival’s third day, the organization had about $250 in combined merchandise sales and donations. The organization brought puppies for festival goers to play with in a pen — one even got adopted.“If someone donates, I’ve just been telling them to grab a shirt -—after all, every little bit helps. That’ll help pay for a lot of vaccinations,” Franqui said.
Holiday flash sale! Subscribe to Delaware Business Times and save 50%.