Virgin Fest Ends Run

When Virgin Group chief Richard Branson announced in 2009 his company-branded festival at  in Baltimore would move to , change its name to Virgin Mobile FreeFest and sport a ticket price of zero, he said it was a way of providing some relief from the Great Recession.  

The one-day festival in Columbia, Md., which featured indie and emerging artists on two stages as well as an electronic Dance Forest, “free-ed out” of up to about 50,000 tickets annually for five years and generated tens of thousands of volunteer hours in support of youth homelessness projects.

But the recession’s over and so is Virgin Mobile FreeFest – at least for now.

The company and promoter Seth Hurwitz announced July 29 that there will be no VMFF in 2014. Nobody’s talking specifics regarding the end of the popular festival, but I.M.P.’s Hurwitz, who promoted VMFF as well as its Virgin Festival predecessor, says he’s not ready to say goodbye just yet.

“The FreeFest was this fantastic product of a crossroads of Branson and some very creative people at Virgin,” Hurwitz said. “The mixture got shaken up every year, and it always settled at the last possible moment for that year. That was part of the spontaneous magic that everyone could pick up on, I think.

“Unfortunately, the pieces are not all there right now with Virgin. Whether they are again, who knows? But the Freefest concept is fantastic and we are exploring options to continue it at Merriweather.”

The Sasha Bruce RE*Generation House in Washington, D.C., has in years past been a top beneficiary of money and volunteer hours from VMFF, and will continue to benefit in 2014, however.

Virgin representative Jayne Wallace told the Baltimore Sun the company would still make a “significant donation” to the RE*Generation House to “continue its tradition of helping make a difference and support the youth homelessness.”

Since FreeFest’s inception in 2009, the public has donated more than 75,000 volunteer hours and 30,000 in-kind donations, and more than $1 million for RE*Generation nonprofit partners, Wallace said.