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Hospitality & Entertainment Kent County News

Firefly Festival canceled for 2023

Katie Tabeling

Firefly Music Festival has drawn thousands of people to Dover, and Kent County has reaped some of the marketing benefits over time. | PHOTO COURTESY OF AEG PRESENTS

DOVER — Firefly Music Festival will not be lighting the stage at the Woodlands at Dover Motor Speedway in 2023, as its organizer AEG Presents announced the music festival will take a year off at this time.

“After 10 magical years of Firefly in The Woodlands, we’ve decided to take a year to recharge our lights. We will see you in 2024,” read a short statement posted to Firefly branded social media pages along with a recap montage video.

Representatives from AEG Presents, the festival’s organizer, were unavailable for immediate comment about the decision Thursday.

What exactly led to the decision to cancel the music festival for at least a year isn’t publicly known, but one possible reason is that AEG Presents is reworking the festival back to the traditional June schedule that it held for its first eight iterations and decided June 2023 was too quick of a turnaround. The festival was cancelled altogether in 2020 amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and moved back to September dates in the past two years.

In addition to putting off a 2023 Firefly though, AEG Presents has also canceled its BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans for next year as well.

Coachella, its most well-known music festival, and its country companion, Stagecoach, are still scheduled for April 2023. Other festivals booked for next year include: European country festival, Country to Country, for March 10-12; the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for April 28 – May 7; and Hangout Music Festival in Alabama for May 19-21.

AEG Presents advertises 32 events in America, England and France on its website.

First launched in 2012, the annual music festival at the Woodlands has been a welcome addition to central Delaware as NASCARs events waned in the 2010s. At its height, Firefly reportedly attracted around 90,000 people in 2015 — that year featured headliners like Paul McCarthey and The Killers. 

Firefly’s inaugural year under Red Frog Events started with 35,000 people and almost doubled the following year. In 2018, Coachella promoter AEG Presents bought the festival and has been organizing it since. 

Capacity at the Woodlands was restricted in 2021 as event promoters were working out how to resume business after the COVID-19 pandemic caused many shows to be canceled the previous year. Even though capacity was reduced to roughly 50,000, it may have performed better than Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee this year, which had an estimated 40,000 people.

AEG Presents has not provided Delaware Business Times attendance numbers for the 2022 festival.

Firefly Music Festival has been a boon to central Delaware, as the sheer number of people flocking to Dover to camp out, stay in hotel rooms and enjoy the music have brought in significant cash flows to gas stations and grocery stores. A 2014 study reports that $68 million was spent in buying goods and services in the region, or roughly $850 per guest. There has not been an updated economic study on Firefly’s impact done since.

Kent County Tourism does little to promote the event, as AEG Presents is the second-largest concert and entertainment promoter in the world after Live Nation. But hotels have seen many rooms booked up for Firefly support staff and vendors.

Meanwhile, NASCAR has been contending with a downturn in events in the last decade. The racetrack recorded $31 million in admission revenue in 2008 — which dropped to $4.9 million in 2019.

Dover International Speedway spent about $1.5 million to decrease its seating capacity from 83,000 to 54,000 in 2019. At its height a decade ago, the racetrack had a capacity of about 135,000. In November 2021, Dover Motorsports was acquired by Speedway Motorsports, one of the sport’s two biggest track owners and operators.

“Across 10 events and 11 years, the Firefly Music Festival has given the mid-Atlantic region countless musical memories,” said Mike Tatoian, Dover Motor Speedway’s president and general manager. “Dover Motor Speedway has been proud to co-host Firefly since its inception and we look forward to its return to the Woodlands in 2024.”

“While we look forward to Firefly’s return, we will continue to explore sports and entertainment opportunities to bring to our property for the community to enjoy,” he added.

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