December 3, 2018

The Nightmare Festival at Four Quarters

NM18 ejdofmbipccodigm

Nifghtmare Stage under the Pavillion, October 2018

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night again...

and again, and again.

And mud too. Lots of mud.

Such was the NightMare Festival at Four Quarters, our emergency response to 4,000 young people losing their longtime venue at Camp Ramblewood in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Seems some poor fool parked their car in someone else's front yard (that someone else being the local Judge) but that's another story!

The compelling story is that over the course of five years, Chad Bozzarelli and his organization, ProperOps, had proved the critics wrong by developing a very late season outdoor music event. So late season it was held on Halloween Weekend, with all the cold and wet weather that implies. There had been plenty of cold, wet weather, and in the early years, financials that were just above break-even. But by 2017 NightMare had become a stunning success, and had grown a small army of smiling, loyal supporters, all apparently to end not with a bang, but a whimper.

With little advance notice, short on funding and shouldering a great deal of risk, we here at Four Quarters joined with ProperOps to make a home for NightMare, and that home was to be New Camp, the land we had purchased in 2015 with just such a purpose in mind.

NM18 dppcaidmpagbnphmOur own compelling story is that New Camp was wasteland in 2015: no access road into its hidden valley, the fields choked with scrub pine and thistles, the woodland colonized by Russian Olive bushes. Over the next three years, we cut in an access road, drilled a well, plowed and planted pasture, made mountains of firewood, cleared out the colonies of scrub, and built all-weather roads. This summer we placed 500 campers in New Camp during the BigDub Festival, and in spite of the rains called it all good.

But NightMare would be especially challenging. Late October in these mountains can bring any kind of weather, so pavilions were in order. Huge pavilions. Gigantic pavilions, so big you could pack a half-dozen suburban houses into them... or staging, sound equipment, lights and 2,500 people.

NM18 bhmghncfbhhkcjjdMusic was scheduled to begin Friday evening, which meant that all things being equal, the rains would begin about noon. And rain it did, nonstop throughout the weekend. Generators failed and were repaired. Our parking area serving New Camp became a sea of mud and we shuttled our campers and their gear into the hidden valley by truck, trailer, and bus. And still it rained, and the music played, and the dancers danced, and all was well, good and reasonably dry inside the pavilions. On the East side of the river HillTop camping worked like a charm with nary a stuck car and shuttle buses running across the river into the wee hours. Our own Samhain Service in the Stone Circle was smooth and moving.

Sunday finally, blessedly, arrived and the rains departed, leaving a field of cars stuck in the mud on one side of Route 26, and 1,200 wet, smiling campers on the other side. Every piece of equipment that could roll on wheels and pull a trailer was pressed into service to take our campers out of the valley, where they were greeted by a team of backhoes and bulldozers eager to ease their cars out of the mud, back onto the roads and homeward bound.

NM18 kahpcknmhgaohdjkIn a word... it was a zoo. A cold, wet, smiling zoo. NightMare was saved. The pavilions were stunning. New Camp carried its weight, with all of our three years of hard work and risk justified. A screaming success, opening the door for major developments in the years to come.

It takes many selfless hands to pull off such a success and there is not enough space here to list names. But mention must be made of the Quartermasters, who kept staff and their equipment high, dry and supplied through the most horrendous weather; the yeomen staff of DPW who brought their own trucks and trailers to shuttle out our campers; the Shank Army with their small ATVs pulling singing loads of campers; Bobby and all of the production staff who put on such a fine show in a completely new environment; and especially parking staff and the Camp Managers, in their raincoats, hour after hour directing traffic and digging out stuck cars with a laugh.

Thank You All! We will do it again next year.

— Orren P. Whiddon

Related Story: Our Wettest Year... EVER.