A mobile sign on Saturday near the entrance of what was to be the first day of Flambeau Fest at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center flashed a mix of bad and good news: “Saturday only canceled,” the sign said. “Sunday will happen.”
Fans expecting to see Sam Hunt, Dustin Lynch, Chase Rice and other country music stars Saturday at Flambeau Fest were disappointed. But by mid-afternoon, the festival announced that Hunt will perform Sunday at 4:30 p.m., joining the second-day lineup that includes classic Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams Jr. and the country and Southern-rock band Blackberry Smoke.
Citing Hurricane Nate’s pending landfall on the central Gulf Coast, festival officials canceled day one of the event following consultations with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
“The Flambeau Fest in Gonzales has been cancelled today,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during an afternoon news conference. “I appreciate the organizers working with us to ensure everyone’s safety, and I support their decision.”
Saturday near the Lamar-Dixon gates, a burly security guard met festival patrons who hadn’t yet heard of the cancellation. On the positive side, he told them, Saturday tickets will be honored Sunday. Also on Sunday, two-day tickets may be used to admit two festival-goers.
“I’m not disappointed,” Mike McMullen, of St. Gabriel, said Saturday at the festival’s entrance. “If you’ve got a natural disaster like this, we’ve got to shut this down. There are more days to have more festivals.”
McMullen’s friend, Tacy Overholser, traveled from Alexandria with a large group to attend Flambeau Fest. She also took a tolerant stance about the cancellation.
“This happens,” Overholser said. “So, we’re going to watch football.”
“Hank and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the big acts, are tomorrow, and it looks like it’s going to be open,” McMullen added. “It should be good tomorrow.”
Amy Francois, on the other hand, a Hunt fan who drove from Lafayette with her neighbor, Jen Arceneaux, didn’t hide her disappointment. Francois and Arceneaux brought signs they’d made to hold up at the festival. They also pumped up their enthusiasm for the event by listening to their favorite artists’ recordings during the drive to Gonzales. And when they reached Lamar-Dixon in the early afternoon, the weather appeared to be improving.
“I’m disgusted,” Francois said. “We drove an hour-and-a-half to get here and the weather is fine.”
Country music fans Rehan Amin and Andrew Nettles drove from New Orleans to see Flambeau Main Stage acts Hunt, Lynch and Rice. Arriving in Gonzales early, they ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel before making their way to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
“It’s pretty upsetting,” Nettles said. “I took off a whole day of work. I can’t come tomorrow because I have work. I guess we’ll just make the best of the day.”
“We had a whole day planned,” Amin said. “Now we’re going to watch the LSU game. I guess that’s all we have left to do.”
Last week, Flambeau Fest faced two potentially show-stopping events, beginning with Sunday’s tragic mass-shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. On Monday, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley announced tighter security for Flambeau Fest with organizers adding their own additional security measures.
Hurricane Nate further threatened the festival, but the event was still a go as of Friday.
“This is crazy,” Flambeau Fest co-producer Mark Adam Miller said Saturday after the announcement of the event's closure. “They always say, 'if you don’t like the weather in southern Louisiana, wait 10 minutes and it changes.' It changed dramatically. Because of the governor’s advice and the dramatic western turn the storm took Friday night, we canceled Saturday.”
The potential for lightning at the Lamar-Dixon’s outdoor Ascension Fields festival grounds was a major reason for the cancellation, Miller said.
“We don’t want to put people in harm’s way,” Miller said. “But Sunday is going to be gorgeous. Our goal for tomorrow is to bump up or extend the lineup.”
Miller was among the millions shocked by the Route 91 Harvest Festival assault. But the tragedy struck him harder than many others because he’s the co-producer of a country music festival.
“Country music is a small community,” Miller said. “We have crewmember friends and artist friends out there (in Las Vegas). We have Flambeau Fest partners out there. Our design team was there. But even with the horrifying event in Las Vegas and the hurricane today, we’re not laying down here. We’re standing up and hitting it hard tomorrow.”