Two Weddings and a Festival – Blue Ridge Rock Fest Part 1 – The People

Getting ready to take in a weekend of rock and roll at Blue Ridge - ©Dave Pearson 2022

Alton, VA – Wedding planning can be such a pain. First, you have to get the venue, then the officiant. Who do you invite? Who do you get for post (and pre?) wedding entertainment? What about wedding crashers? So many things to consider. 

For two couples, the perfect wedding could not have been planned more easily. The venue would be a racetrack, the entertainment would be over 160 bands, and the reception (and preception) would take place amidst over 150,000 admissions to the venue. Yes, they would take their vows… along with the rest of the festivities at Blue Ridge Rock Fest 2022

I got to know both couples a little before their nuptials, talking with them via social media and exchanging a couple emails, as well as meeting up with them on the Friday of the festival. 

Meet Elizabeth and Dan – they have been friends with a love for music and rock for over 4.5 years. “Check this band / song out” became a tradition as they shared different musical experiences with each other. The more they shared, the more their relationship grew. In 2019, they decided to pursue more. 2021 was a special year as Dan proposed to Liz and they also attended their first BRRF. When their found out that Motionless in White was performing this year at BRRF, they immediately knew the venue and the time (“Eternally Yours“) they would be wed. 

Meet Sarah and Bob – They met online and it was an instant connection. Their first concert together was Killswitch Engage in Lynchburg, VA on 12/04/18. What started out as a fun friendship soon turned into something more. Both had left difficult marriages behind and were in the midst of custody battles, which in a way was what brought them together. They also share a love of travel, a love a rock music, and many other things that would make a long list! They have shared many adventures together, including BRRF 2019 and 2021. They had tried to wed in April, which fell through. Then it dawned on them, why not at BRRF? The fact Killswitch Engage would be performing this year was icing on the (wedding) cake! 

Bob and Sarah at BRRF 2022. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

The ceremonies could not have been more different. Liz and Dan, in the pit at MIW, while Sarah and Bob were behind the soundboard before the Killswitch Engage performance. 

I am sad to report that I am still a mosh pit virgin, as my attempts to reach the Liz and Dan site met many human obstacles. With that said, the ICoN pit crew got Dan and Liz, with their festival family members, down to the pit at the start of MIW. They rocked out to the show until “Eternally Yours“. The pit crew stepped in again, clearing the pit a bit for the wedding while the mosh pit rocked around. Frank Chambers performed the ceremony. “It was the most magical feeling standing there with my best friend, saying our vows to each other during our song, Eternally Yours, while our rock family witnessed and rocked out around us was everything we’d ever hoped it would be.”

Bob and Sarah was somewhat more traditional in a very non-traditional place. Both of us were attending the Lamb of God performance, which was on the opposite side of the complex. I got to the URW stage first (a fun trek down ‘the hill’ to get there.. thank goodness for a well lit path down the hill). We met behind the soundboard and I immediately know photographing would be a challenge. Frank (the officiant) was the first to arrive and Bob and Sarah were not far behind. Thankfully they brought some friends (with lights). They all gathered round with cell phone flashlights ablaze, even shouting to other fans, passing by to help illuminate this wonderful occasion. A few stepped up and before you knew it, after exchanging some vows, they were pronounced husband and wife… and even kissed in the presence of tens of thousands of their best friends that they had never met. 

Love Comes to Blue Ridge – The Photo Gallery

Of course, for the vast majority of patrons it was not love for each other (but there certainly was a lot of love in the air), it was about the love of the bands and the music those bands brought to the event. 

On Friday, I was introduced to crowd surfing. Sure, I had seen it pictures and video, but had never been their first hand. What was fascinating (for me, the casual observer), was the trust people had in each other. From the people doing the lift and starting the wave to those catching the surfers at the end, it was pure magic. Sadly, with such physical trust there can be accidents and injury as well, the worst being what was reported to be a spinal injury on Saturday of a young woman. 

BRRF Friday Photo Gallery

Saturday was a bit of a challenge. While the weather did hold off for a bit (it was supposed to rain all day, it did not start until later in the afternoon). One of the most interesting people I met on Saturday was a small group of friends who had gathered at the festival to celebrate the life of a friend who was now rocking in paradise. In their words, “we are here to celebrate life with the music that brought us all together”. 

I also caught a few younger fans (as in really young) with their parents in the mix. That was the amazing thing. I often think it was my generation that started the rock genre offshoot that made up much of the music at BRRF popular (but later generations molded it into what it is now), but the diversity in the crowd was amazing, especially when it comes to age. 

BRRF Saturday Photo Gallery

Weatherwise, the only thing lacking over the weekend was snow. Friday had been a perfect day, Saturday, rainy and muddy, and Sunday turned out to be hot, humid, and even muddier than Saturday. Despite all that, it was a great day!! 

As I mingled with Sunday’s crowd, again, the reasons for attendance were quite varied. I even thought I caught an engagement in pixels… but much to my chagrin, it was a proposal that was part of a scavenger hunt… and Mr. Turtle was merely making the proposal to score scavenger hunt points. Alas, music can bring us all together, but it can also make us do really odd things! 

I had the opportunity to talk with and interact with an ‘ICoN’ic fixture at many festivals, The ICoN Pit Crew. They are a close knit organization that attends festivals to keep them safe and enjoyable for all. The crew members came from all walks of life and encompassed all ages. On Sunday, it was a little alarming to note that the Pit Crew had been asked to step up and provide some security for the event. It is unclear whether that was a result of a reduced security force or just a need for heightened security. Regardless, from my perspective, the security over the weekend was awesome and at no time did I feel there were any major issues. Overall, I was very impressed by the lack of major crowd problems. The people had truly made this event a success!

BRRF Sunday Photo Gallery

Walking 30+ miles in 3 days with camera gear hanging from my shoulders proved to be quite a challenge, but a lot of fun. I had known music was powerful and brought people together, but would have never thought it could have unified so many from all walks of life. I am so grateful that Dan, Liz, Sarah, and Bob allowed me to take part in their very special days as they took their vows of love with the masses who were all sharing a love of music. At a time when it sometimes seems there are so many forces pulling us apart, Blue Ridge Rock Fest proved to me that despite all our differences, music can bring us all together. 

Of course, this is only part of the story, stay tuned for Part 2 of Two Weddings and a Festival, where I take a look at the festival itself. 

Festival Dates: September 8-11, 2022