Summer of music means big money in Delaware

 A Delaware flag is carried through the crowd last Friday afternoon at Firefly Festival. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

A Delaware flag is carried through the crowd last Friday afternoon at Firefly Festival. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

After the last chords have been played and the final campsite packed up, what’s left in Delaware from this summer’s music festivals? Money.

With 90,000 people at Firefly last weekend and 35,000 at the inaugural Big Barrel Festival this weekend, music has become big business for the tourism industry in Delaware.

“This is a year when travelers have more reasons to come to Delaware, more money to spend while they are here, and more things to spend it on,” said Linda Parkowski, director of the Delaware Tourism Office.

Parkowksi anticipates an economic impact of $90 to $100 million as a result of the two festivals at the Woodlands at Dover International Speedway. That doesn’t even factor in tourism spending generated by the Delaware State Fair next month or Delaware Junction Festival; which is the second, brand new country music festival in the state this year. Delaware Junction will be held in mid-August at the State Fairgrounds in Harrington.

A University of Delaware study released last year found Firefly alone created the economic equivalent of 578 full-time jobs. Firefly’s $68 million addition to the state economy in 2014 averages out to more than $850 spent per attendee. The event also contributed nearly $10 million in state, local and federal taxes.

Tourism leaders hope those who attend a music festival in the First State will share that experience with their friends, leading to lots of positive word of mouth promotion about Delaware.

“These days, when something creates a ‘buzz,’ it can be felt and heard around the world in a matter of hours,” Parkowski said. Having someone like Paul McCartney post a video on social media about his first performance in Delaware is certainly one of those buzz making moments.

“What could possibly be better than this and all these people coming to Delaware,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell. “If you think about it, this is bigger by a pretty good margin than our largest city, and it’s basically ten percent of the state’s population, it’s awesome,” he said of the 90,000 people attending Firefly last weekend.

The festival attendance is just a part of the growing Delaware tourism industry. In 2012, tourism activity contributed $2.2 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. In 2013, that contribution was up to $2.9 billion, according to the Delaware Tourism Office. That makes tourism the fourth largest private employer in the state with nearly 40,000 employees and generates $451 million in taxes and fees for state and local government.

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