‘Stars lined up’ for Funhouse Fest

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Bruce Hornsby and Ross Holmes play a bluegrass duet with the Noisemakers on Sunday night at Funhouse Fest. (Adrienne Berard/WYDaily)
Bruce Hornsby and Ross Holmes play a bluegrass duet with the Noisemakers on Sunday night at Funhouse Fest. (Adrienne Berard/WYDaily)

As a late afternoon sun beat down on the grounds of Funhouse Fest Saturday, Rob Cross, director of Virginia Arts Festival and co-creator of the three-day event, was enjoying the shade.

Under the cover of the festival’s VIP lounge, Cross watched the lawn-strewn concertgoers like a proud father.

“The stars really lined up for this,” Cross said of the first outdoor music festival to be held at Colonial Williamsburg. “It all just came together. It clicked.”

Cross first came up with the idea for an outdoor concert last spring. He wanted to mark the 20-year anniversary of Virginia Arts Festival with a concert by his longtime friend and local musician Bruce Hornsby.

“The city and Colonial Williamsburg were interested in trying something new in terms of programming,” Cross said. “We were looking for something different.”

Concertgoers dance on the lawn at Funhouse Fest. (Adrienne Berard/WYDaily)
Concertgoers dance on the lawn at Funhouse Fest. (Adrienne Berard/WYDaily)

Hornsby, who is an investor in WYDaily’s parent company, Local Voice, was on tour with the Grateful Dead at the time, so he asked Cross to put his idea on hold.

In early September, Cross received a call from Hornsby, who had decided he wanted to do more than put on a hometown concert — he wanted to host a festival.

Since last fall, the two have been collaborating to create Funhouse Fest, an outdoor music festival that ended its three-day run Sunday. Hornsby agreed to perform each day of the festival and curate the lineup of artists, all of whom had worked with Hornsby over the course of his 30-plus-year career.

The result, said Cross, was even better than he anticipated. By late Saturday, the Virginia Arts Festival was just shy of its original ticket sales projection, a number Cross would not share, but said was “a lot.”

Just as important to Cross was the sense of kinship he observed between the audience and the bands. Cross said after Friday’s concert, musicians and concertgoers alike went to Triangle for a late-night jam session.

“I hadn’t really expected that — or even thought about it,” Cross said. “But the bands are all enjoying spending time together and enjoying being in the community.”