Two new and enticing festivals give tourists a reason to visit Delaware.

Two new and enticing festivals give tourists a reason to visit Delaware.

Major country music festivals, Big Barrel and Delaware Junction, debuted in Kent County this past summer, luring high-profile artists to the First State.

They helped bulk up Delaware’s entertainment scene, joining the acclaimed Firefly Music Festival, one of the country’s most popular fests, which launched in Dover in 2012.

“Music fans from across the country and the world now view Delaware as a music epicenter,” said Lauren King, director of public relations for Red Frog Events, the organizers of Firefly and Big Barrel.

Big Barrel was held at The Woodlands in June, featuring headliners Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood. In August, Delaware Junction at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington boasted headliners Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Toby Keith. Both events were held across three days.

Each festival attracted thousands of revelers and pumped millions of dollars into the local economy. The economic impact was felt beyond the festival grounds by businesses such as hotels and restaurants, said William Neaton, Dover’s economic development director.

“Not everyone that goes to Firefly or Big Barrel camps out,” Neaton said. “They have to find a place to stay and eat. Even though they have food vendors at the festival, not everyone wants to eat there.”

“Firefly and Big Barrel are not 24-7 events,” he added. “People will go and shop at the mall and local stores. Everyone is the recipient of the economic impact.”

Boosting the economy

As the biggest of the three, Firefly is a prime example of the kind of money festivals like Big Barrel and Junction can bring into the economy.

Firefly’s four-day festival in 2014 attracted 80,000 festivalgoers per day, added more than $68 million to the regional economy and created the equivalent of 579 full-time jobs, according to a study conducted by the Center for Applied Business and Economic Research, part of the Alfred Lerner College of Business at the University of Delaware.

Firefly attendance has grown each year, from 30,000 per day in 2012, to 65,000 in 2013, to 80,000 in 2014, to selling out all 90,000 tickets in 2015 – a first in the festival’s history.

By comparison, Big Barrel attracted 35,000 festivalgoers and has become “the largest country music festival east of the Mississippi,” King said. Delaware Junction aimed at bringing in around 20,000 revelers.

What’s next?

Big Barrel will return to Dover June 24-26 with more than 40 acts, including stars Eric Church, Brad Paisley and Sam Hunt.

King is hopeful lightning will strike twice.

“We’re excited to continue to bring country fans a memorable experience each year, complete with an exciting lineup and experiences,” she said. “We look forward to Big Barrel being a summer tradition for many years to come.”

Partners Live Nation and Highway One announced Delaware Junction will return in 2016. The organizers didn’t immediately respond to requests for an interview.

With both set to return this summer, Neaton expects the festivals will again inject millions into the local economy.

“We’re the music capital of the East Coast,” Neaton said. “The festivals will continue to grow as more and more people become aware of them.”