Stewardship

  • June 10, 2023

You may have heard of Floydfest – even if you have not heard of Floyd, which is the rural SW Virginia county where I live. It is the place I went to live 20 years ago after living in Northern Virginia for most of my life.

In order to get away from there.

Not just physically but in the more important way. Psychologically. I moved here because I wanted to live like the people here live. Modestly and quietly. To have as much peace and quiet as is possible, by living among like-minded people. I did not move here to bring Northern Virginia with me.

That is what Floydfest does.

It is a massive, several-days-long serial concert event that attracts thousands of people who do not live here to the area, who bring with them the things Northern Virginia people live with all year long, such as noise and traffic.

And more (and worse) than just that.

Even though it is only once a year and for just a few days, Floydfest has noticeably changed the feel and the actuality of life in Floyd. It has egged on the development of the area, by bringing people to the area – many of whom are like the people who created Floydfest. They are people who like the natural beauty of the area, including the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as the much lower cost of living, due to the much smaller government and the smaller number of people employed by it.

But they do not understand that Floydfest changes all of that.

Or they are people who do not care about that. Who want to change all of that.

They are the people who do not like Floyd – as it is, at any rate. Certainly not as it was. It is too quiet and peaceful for them. There is not enough for them to “do.” They get bored. They do not want to live among hicks. And so they bring in the hip. And with them, Northern Virginia – or Asheville or Aspen, it all amounts to the same thing, eventually – to places like Floyd. Which in short order become McReplications of everything they left behind in places like Northern Virginia, et al.

They either do not see the inevitability of this – or they do not care.

Or they care about something else.

Floydfest brings a lot of money into Floyd, especially for the people who run it. It is how Floydfest – which is a company, not some organic gathering of people – acquired the millions it took to buy up a large tract of rural land for Floydfest.

This land is just off the one main road that runs through the county, which has just one lane in each direction and was built on the assumption of not many cars using it any given time – there being not that many people in Floyd, which has a population of about 15,500 people ordinarily.

This goes up by the same number during Floydfest – temporarily doubling the county’s population. Some of the effects of that are, of course, permanent. Floyd – the county – used to have just a small handful of deputy sheriffs, who drove old Ford Crown Victorias without radar detectors. They now drive $40,000-plus brand-new Ford Explorers – with radar. The people brought to Floyd by Floydfest requires more police presence – and the money brought to Floyd by the fest helps pay for it.

And so do the people who live here, who came here (and live here) to get away from such things.

One can see the Northern Virginia-ification of the area in other ways, too. In the cropping up of million-dollar McMansions on what used to be someone’s farm land – lived in by people who want to live near such things as Floydfest – and the gentrification that rides its coat-tails. Fancy shops in town. Fancy cars parked in town. It tends to push people who cannot afford such things (including the escalating property taxes on their modest homes and land) out of town.

Ask someone who grew up in Aspen back in the ’70s.

This is not to say the people who are behind Floydfest haven’t got the right to buy – and use – the property they bought as they see fit. This is the position of the local woman who is running for Delegate, Marie March. As opposed to some of her “conservative” opposition, that wants to use the government to “stop” Floydfest using The Law – which is just what has happened, this year. The event had to be cancelled on account of the Floydfestians having run afoul of an environmental permitting process.

Many of us breathed a sigh of relief that there would be no Floydfest this year. And hope that, perhaps, there will be no Floydfest again. Ever. But – as March says – the way to achieve that is best achieved differently. The same Law that was used to stop Floydfest could be (per Thomas More in the play, A Man for All Seasons) be turned around and used to stop other things, too.

One of the many attractions of Floyd – as opposed to the Fest – is that there are no zoning laws. It is why the people who bought the acreage to hold the Fest could (so they thought) use their land as they liked.

And now they have been told they may not.

Using government as a weapon is always a bad idea because once you give it a weapon, government will use it. It will not stop using it, either.

So what is the better way to stop something like Floydfest?

Perhaps stewardship.

Because there are no zoning requirements in Floyd – and because I own some land – I could use the land to build something loud and obnoxious to my neighbors and the community upon it. Something like Floydfest. But I choose not to because I value the land – and the peace and quiet that it provides. Because I value the area – and how it is – and did not come here to change it into a replica of everything I tried to move away from. I moved here, 20 years ago, to live as the folks here do. Not to change the way the folks here live to suit the way I want to live.

The people who created Floydfest may not have had bad intentions when the Fest was founded some 20 years ago. When it was just a local-yokel gathering of not-that-many-people for some music and fun in the out-of-doors. But it has grown into the antithesis of everything that Floyd was once about.

It’s what often happens when stewardship takes a back seat to other considerations.

. . .

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