DOVER — Firefly kicked off to a muddy start Thursday with thunderstorms and flash flood warnings throughout the morning. Gates were originally scheduled to open at 3 p.m. but that was pushed back to about 7:35 p.m.
Festivalgoers, however, were not deterred.
Santanna Vastana is from Virginia Beach and this is her first year at Firefly, although she is no stranger to the music festival scene. She was hoping to see Hippie Sabotage at the Pavilion at 6:15 p.m. but the band’s time was changed to 8 p.m. instead.
“It’s understandable,” she said. “You can’t help the rain and they can’t control the weather, so it’s not a big deal to me.”
Audrey Clinton and Dominic Salas were also ready to see some concerts by Thursday afternoon. Luckily, one of their favorites, Dr. Fresch, who was supposed to play the Pavilion at 4:45 p.m., has other sets throughout the weekend.
The two arrived on Wednesday night and braved the rain that followed.
“It was entertaining,” Ms. Clinton said with a laugh. “It was a fun night. We bunkered down and had a good time.”
Ms. Clinton and Mr. Salas met at Firefly in 2014 and have been coming together ever since. So regardless of the weather, they said Firefly holds a special place in their hearts. They attended the festival in 2015 when Kings of Leon’s headlining set was canceled due to a lightning storm.
“It’s how any festival goes,” Mr. Salas said. “We always have a good time and make the best of it. We’re at least wearing proper footwear.”
Cheers erupted as festivalgoers were finally let inside the gates after a four-hour delay.
Though the wet pathways caught the light from the string lights of the stands and LED firework-art installations, the music fans who had waited all day ran to the stages.
Jo Tague, 17, of Newark ran to Firefly Stage so she could have front row view of Billie Eilish, whose concert start was changed from 10:45 to 11:15 p.m.
It was Jo’s first time at the festival.
“I’m more excited,” she said of the wait. “I’m really glad that I’m here now.”
Sophia Hamate drove down from Pennsylvania on Thursday for Firefly. It’s her first time at the festival and she’ll be making the drive each day.
“It’s amazing to finally be here,” she said. “I’ve been waiting to see Girl in Red for two years.”
The Norwegian pop singer/songwriter kicked things off on the main stage at 8 p.m.
Wade Long is from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and said the rain on Thursday wasn’t ideal, but he is looking forward to the rest of the weekend, which is projected to be sunny with highs around 73 degrees. This is his first year camping and attending multiple days of the festival since the September weather is more tolerable than June heat. He also wanted to take advantage of the event before another potential spike in COVID-19 cases.
“If there’s a chance there is going to be another rise (in cases), I want to get this (experience) in now,” Mr. Long said. “I know that sounds a bit like I just want to get out and party as soon as I can, but there’s a fair amount of health checks and screenings so that made me feel better about coming.”
Attendees had to show proof of vaccine or a negative test.
Teddy Lamonaca is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and is a first-time Firefly attendee. He said he thinks the Firefly health checks are pretty safe, but there are always risks with a large festival.
“There’s like 40,000 people here. Everybody here probably isn’t being 100 percent truthful (about their COVID-19 test and vaccine status),” Mr. Lamonaca said.
First-time Firefly festivalgoer Katie Bailey is a social worker from Massachusetts. She said people have to weigh their risks at this point in the pandemic.
“I’m more concerned about people who are staying isolated because it’s going to kill you to stay inside,” she said. “I’m seeing the mental health and emotional impacts of that, so I’m happy to see people out and about living their lives.”
The gates open today and the rest of the weekend at noon.
Staff writer Brooke Schultz contributed to this story.