"I pulled in at 5:30 in the morning on Friday. We were going to start parking campers at 6 a.m. and there was already a line of people waiting," said Mr. Tatoian, executive vice president and COO of Dover Motorsports, Inc., operator of Dover International Speedway.
"You had all of these people who didn't know who was on the right or the left of them. But you just knew by the time things got started, they were going to be buddies for the whole weekend. It just turned into this instant community and it was just all so cool."
He got the same feeling when the grounds officially opened at 2 p.m.
"I was up at the front gates and the fans just started coming and coming in waves," he said.
"I'd been looking at site maps and travel patterns for 10 months and suddenly everything was finally coming to life."
Last weekend's festival, presented by Chicago-based Red Frog Events, was by all accounts a resounding success, drawing an estimated 30,000 people from 48 states for three days of music, food and beverages and other amenities, including an arcade, hammock hangout and hot-air balloon rides.
All of it was situated on 87 acres of what is known as RV Lot 10 during the speedway's two annual NASCAR weekends.
"I would certainly say that the Dover International Speedway staff rose to the occasion and once again demonstrated that they can handle a huge crowd of people," said Kent County Tourism Executive Director Cindy Small.
"Compared to glory days of NASCAR when 200,000 were coming to town, 30,000 is small compared to that, but they've demonstrated once again that they are well-equipped."
The 48-act music lineup was the real star, comprised of headliners Jack White, The Killers and The Black Keys, along with artists such as The Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse and John Legend.
The festival, which is already set for June 21-23 next year with pre-sale tickets put on sale Wednesday, received national attention from such national outlets as Rolling Stone, Billboard and VH1.
"I found myself reading Rolling Stone and Billboard and they all had such glowing things to say about Firefly and Dover. It was really a source of pride for all of us," said Mr. Tatoian, who characterized the whole weekend as "terrific."
"It certainly exceeded all expectations but I can't say I was surprised at the success of it," he said.
"Obviously I knew what a great facility we have and how capable our staff is. We had faith in Red Frog and we knew what great production and talent companies they had on board. When you took all of those key components all performing like we knew they could perform - all of the elements coming together - you couldn't help but get those results."
The results were not only reflected in ticket and concession sales but also in the limited number of incidents and the revenue it brought to the local economy.
Over the weekend, police said there were very few arrests and everything progressed in an orderly fashion.
"Everyone was very polite. There were lots of pleases and thank-yous and the crowd was very cognizant of keeping the area clean and throwing away their trash, which was great," Mr. Tatoian said.
And from an economic standpoint, officials, who estimated that more than $12 million would pour into the state, are pleased.
"Local restaurants like the Hollywood Diner and Kirby & Holloway Family Restaurant were packed," said Delaware Tourism Office Director Linda Parkowski.
"There were lines of people everywhere. We don't have numbers for hotels, but we can say that we've heard from industry people that Firefly had a very big impact on the hotel community as a whole with a significant amount of business brought to the Dover area."
And long after the confetti has been picked up and the musical acts have Dover in their rear-view mirror, the festival is still producing dividends.
Herb Konowitz, vice chairman of the Dover Interfaith Mission, an area homeless shelter, said his organization benefitted greatly.
"Shortly after the festivities were over, we received a call to determine if we were interested in receiving the foods that were not consumed but had been properly refrigerated," he wrote in an email Wednesday morning.
"We spent the last two days picking up whole cooked roast beef, spareribs, chicken, sliced beef, steaks, all kinds of fresh produce, breads, rolls, coffee, breakfast cereals, juice, you name it. We filled our walk-in freezer, and also the freezers at Whatcoat and Shepherd Place shelters."
They planned to return Thursday to pick up all the remaining food that was used to feed the large staff of people.
"Not only was this a huge success for Delaware, Dover (International Speedway) and the producers, Red Frog, but to the many homeless persons in the Dover area. Thank you Red Frog."
This is all more amazing when you realize that Dover was almost an afterthought for Red Frog officials.
"I think they (considered) about 60 sites and we might have been the last one," said Mr. Tatoian.
"When they were here, we first showed them in and around the bowl. When they described what they wanted to accomplish, we gave them a tour of the larger footprint. To their credit, when they came upon the RV campgrounds, they saw the place they had been searching for.
"They deserve 100 percent of that vision."
While Red Frog had to be convinced Dover International Speedway was its sought-after venue, so too did the speedway have to agree that a company, which had only produced the Warrior Dash series, a successful collection of endurance runs across the country, could pull of their first music festival.
"Obviously we have a 43-year history that they could do research on. But we had very little to research on them," Mr. Tatoian said.
"We just started making phone calls to people on their reference list of those who had hosted Warrior Dashes before. The calls were all very consistent. We were told that they were an incredible group of people who deliver on what they promise. And they are exactly that. We couldn't have been more pleased."
A decision to move ahead on next year was quickly reached with the announcement on Tuesday that Firefly would be back in 2013.
"Ultimately that is a business decision. They lease the area from us. At the end of the day, it's their vision. Even before the festival began, we were hoping they would do it again. From our perspective, it's great that they felt good enough about our site and staff to continue," Mr. Tatoian said, adding that although it was certainly discussed during the festival, the final decision didn't come until "shortly before it was announced" on Tuesday.
"We had a chance to meet with them and were very excited to hear they wanted to come back to Dover."
Mr. Tatoian said he sees a bright future for Firefly.
"I told them that the problem is they raised the bar so high. If we get the growth we are capable of getting, we might have to reconfigure what we have now but there's certainly room to grow," he said.
"But I always say the best kind of pains are growing pains."
Contrary to a rumor that quickly spread during Firefly, Mr. Tatoian said the speedway has not signed a long-term pact with Red Frog.
"It will be a one-year agreement for the foreseeable future. But we certainly expect they will be here for a long time and that they have found a home. There is really no advantage or disadvantage to doing it either way except to say that both sides are comfortable with this arrangement."
The speedway now turns its attention back to NASCAR for the fall races Sept. 27-30 and converting the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway back into RV Lot 10.
"Firefly was phenomenal but we haven't lost sight that our bread and butter is still NASCAR," Mr. Tatoian said.
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