Around Winchester

Full Interview: Zack Thayer, Organizer of Valley Fusion Festival 2016

By Tessa Climer

As local music festivals become popular, it was only a matter of time until they came to Winchester. One event, coming up this September, is being organized in part by student Zack Thayer, who I interviewed about the development of the project:

Okay so who started this, and who was the mastermind behind all of this?

So the origin story is kinda funny. It was just me and few friends sitting last summer in May or so. I was about to go to California to do an internship with a musical festival and we were just sitting around talking all of us are either musicians or business people thinking we have an interesting set of skills here really interesting diverse collection of characteristics that we could do something with. So we kinda looked at each other and like, “what can we do with this?” Main people were me and my partner Ardy Wunder, we were just spit balling ideas, like “ok we have all these skills, what can we do?” And we were just sort of like “Musical festival?” So then I went to California and did the internship with the musical festival came back and met with Ardy again and was like, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about this all summer I think we could do this.” and he was like “You know what I’ve been thinking the same thing. Let’s hit the ground running.” So around August or so, we started feasibility testing and so, yeah. My partner, Ardy and I are the main people…. we are trying to make it as community driven as possible, but we are the two main administrative people.

What is it and why did you decide you wanted to do it?

Valley Fusion Festival, Valley Fusion Fest for short. Basically we are a music and arts festival directly in Winchester, we are the only major music festival like this that happens in the area with a focus on supporting local visual and performance artists in the area as well as bringing in well acclaimed jam, funk and bluegrass musicians. Nationally and locally touring.

So, is this going to be this summer?

It’s September 17th, its just a one day festival, we wanted to keep it in September so Shenandoah students could go, they are a really big part of our demographic that we are advertising too and yeah, it just made sense, there are a lot of festivals that happen over the summer so ours would be a really good end of summer cap for the festival kids.

Do you guys think if it goes well this summer you’d do it again? Maybe even longer?

Yeah for sure, we actually have a three-year business plan for this particular project. We actually cooperated our own production company as a first step cause we wanted the ability to expand past this festival we want to be able to offer our other services and potentially do other events, but this is a first major headliner event. We do plan on keeping it going for a while, we want to make it a staple event in the Winchester community, maybe expand it to two days, and then if we figure out a situation with the venue, potentially include camping to festival and add more stages. It’ll grow as the years go on.

And for the venue, where exactly is it? Is it in a big field or?

So it’s at a place called Willow Grove Farm, it’s a privately owned rented venue space, typically before it’s only been used for weddings and they’ve had some other small scaled music based events there, but nothing on the scale that we’re talking about. Nothing more than a couple hundred people. It’s a gorgeous space though. Two huge fields that we’re using, set against the backdrop of a lake. The owners of the property actually live on site of the venue in houses so their actually going to be a part of setting up the festival. Going out to the venue, the minute we stepped foot on it, I feel in love. You drive in and they set up rock statues, the freestanding rock statues. Every time you go in they have that by the entrance. It was really magical. Spending the day out there, shooting he promotional video was one of the best days I’ve had in a while. It was just so beautiful, bright sunny day. Sitting in a field. Nice and green.

Are you looking to get some local bands involved if they reach out to you for performing opportunities?

This year pretty much all of our slots are booked, we have actually gotten a couple bands that are local. I wouldn’t call them SU bands, but they just happen to have members who go or have gone to SU. Sono Lumini, Threesound, and actually Dynamo, our headliner, they are well out of school but one of their members graduated from SU. They actually just did a session at the recording studio here as well. There are some people who have ties to the SU community, but right now, we have all our bands booked.

And we are definitely seeking some artists that are SU students, and we’ve gotten couple who have been interested, both alumni and students have reached out. I think we are also partnering with some SU organizations like The Loaf, and the Margin theater that are actually going to be doing performances as part of our workshop area of the festival itself. So we definitely are trying to partner with SU organizations and boarder organizations of the Winchester community and some national touring acts as well.

How about volunteers? Are you looking for any of those?

Absolutely. We’re not quite at the point where we need to reach out for a lot of volunteers, but a little bit closer to the festival we are going to need people to help. Not just for general volunteer things, we are also looking for like specific roles, we need a stage manager for both of our stages, we are reaching out to the MPRT department on campus to see if they would give us some stage hands for credit. We are looking for volunteers in all aspects.

If you’d like more information about the festival, go to their Facebook page and give it a “like,” or RSVP to the Facebook events page.

To volunteer, contact the official Facebook or Zack Thayer.

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