Transforming their farmland into a festival destination was something that’s come about in the past few years. We recently spoke with David Larson, who’s one of the owners of the Chantilly Farm. He shared with us what they do, and how they do it. From Bluegrass festivals to camping. Listen to our full interview here:
Chantilly Farm Camping Virginia
Camp Virginia: I’m talking with David Larson this morning. Him and his wife own Chantilly Farm in Virginia. How’s it going this morning, David?
David Larson: Oh, it’s going fine. It’s a little bit rainy up here today, but we had some cold weather last week, but it’s warmed up, but it’s beautiful and the autumn leaves are about, I’d say, probably at their maximum color, so it’s beautiful up here, in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
CV: Perfect, so probably the perfect time to visit Chantilly Farm.
David Larson: Well, it is. It’s a good time to come out and visit anything here, in Floyd. It’s just beautiful up here, and the leaves. You get a little rain though, which are going to knock the leaves down, but it’s really pretty. Really pretty.
CV: Okay. Now, how long have you guys been there and how did you get your start?
David Larson: Well, actually, we’ve been in Floyd County for 45 years, but we farmed the property around here, and several years back, we decided to develop one of our properties in festival farm. And that meant festivals; you’ll have some campers. So, we’re in our third year of development, and we’ve had quite a few festivals. And so, that’s sort of how we got started. We thought it was a good use of some land, where we don’t have to divide it up and keep it in one track. It’s sort of an agro tourism business, believe it or not, using agriculture for something touristy. And of course, people come to our festivals from all over. So that’s how we got started.
CV: Yeah. You know, looking on the website here, at some of the pictures you have, it looks like you’ve had a fair amount of success with that as well.
David Larson: Well, we’ve been really delighted with how many people have come out to the festivals and people wanting to do festivals and events. We rent the venue out for other events too. We use it for our own festivals, and then we rent it for weddings. We even had a high school reunion out here, and of course music events are probably the bigger thing. Yeah, and it’s picking up, people wanting to do more events out here all the time. And you know, we’re only in our third year, so it’s moving along rather nicely.
CV: Okay. Now, do you have people coming out there and camping when there aren’t music festivals there or is it primarily just during the festivals?
David Larson: Oh no, we have people camping when there aren’t festivals. In fact, it’s almost easier to camp right now, when there’s not a festival, because our camping area is not real big. We’re in the process of enlarging our camping area, but no, we have people almost all the time wanting to camp here. Especially when they come to the festivals. Then they want to come back and camp when there isn’t one. So, definitely, you know, when there’s not a festival, we’re having campers here.
CV: And it looks like you offer primitive tent camping all the way up to 30amp and 50amp hook-ups for RVs. What are the sites like for the primitive camping?
David Larson: Well, the primitive camping, since we’ve got several hundred acres here and basically thirty, forty to fifty acres of it pretty much developed, people can pick a campsite in the woods or out in the open, under the stars, or along the road. When we don’t have a festival, we just have a big area that has nobody in it. It’s a beautiful green area and, you know, a lot of wildlife and stuff. So, the primitive camping can be just about anything you’d like. I have a nice kind of property, but I haven’t developed that yet, but we’ll be developing that into tent camping as well.
CV: Okay. And is it just sort of camping at large, or do you have sites staked out?
David Larson: Right now, the primitive camping is just at large. Like I said, we’re actually in the process of developing a quite expanded operation. We will have some campsites marked out, but at the moment, the primitive camping is, you know, where you want to camp and that’s actually pretty nice.
CV: You’re the first place that I’ve talked to that offers that, and I think that’s fantastic. You know, that’s one of the reasons a lot of people will hit the State Forest sometimes; is that it’s actually pretty fun to try and figure out where you’re going to be. There’s a little bit of strategy and you’re kind of walking around, looking for a site, rather than having one that’s already picked for you. So, that’s pretty cool that you guys have a spot where people can just kind of setup wherever they’re comfortable.
David Larson: That’s right. That’s right.
CV: Two more questions for you. If you were just going to spend one hour hanging out at Chantilly Farm, how do you like to spend your time there, David?
David Larson: Well, I spend quite a bit of time there actually. We have, of course, a fully equipped farm – well, festival farm – and we’ve got wooded area, open area, and we also have a nice little office that’s fully functional with a ham radio station, and we like that. We like to go out sometimes and just sit on the porch and look out over the field. Then we can see almost the entire open area – festival area – from that area, and that’s one thing people like about it when they come and camp; is the expanded space. They feel like they’re really out in the open. And I don’t mean out in the open, exposed, but I mean they’re out in the open, in a private way.
CV: Yeah, ham radio was the Internet before the Internet, wasn’t it?
David Larson: Well, it was the original social network, back in the 1915/1920.
CV: Absolutely true.
David Larson: Yeah. Yeah.
CV: Yeah, and now, you know, it’s kind of nice with everything recent that’s happened with surveillance. I know a couple people who are into ham radio, and they still like the fact that they’re off the grid on that.
David Larson: Well, one thing about ham radio is that it is point-to-point, and you know, if everything else fails and you have your radio and you have a way to power it, which could be solar or whatever, you can still have communication. So, there’s a lot of that going on. A lot of people tooling up with that for possible brown-house blackouts and even worse, which we don’t want to go there.
CV: Yeah. Yeah.
David Larson: But you know, it is a baseline communication. It’s wonderful.
CV: So, another question. I’m just question. What kinds of numbers have you guys seen with the festivals? Some of these pictures – it looks like they’ve been quite a few people.
David Larson: Well, our largest festival so far has been our bluegrass festival, which was the first one we did, and we did our fourth annual in May. We have them on the Saturday of Memorial Day. And we had 3500 plus at that festival.
David Larson: So, for us, here, that’s a pretty good size festival. In terms of festivals nationwide, that would be considered pretty small for some of them. But you know, festivals are all over, but for us, we’re real happy with that and we’re moving up. The little field – the amphitheater. That particular amphitheater where the stage is and so forth can handle maybe six thousand people, but we have a bigger amphitheater that’ll handle up to ten thousand. We haven’t built a stage in that one yet. So, we’re growing. Like I said, we’re just into our third year, so things are going well.
CV: Okay. And what’s your favorite festival that you guys have during the year?
David Larson: Well, the bluegrass festival is our favorite festival.
CV: Very cool.
David Larson: It’s our first. This is the home of bluegrass. This part of the world, here in Blue Ridge Mountains and particularly here in Floyd, we’ve got a lot of wonderful bluegrass people. We have some within – not right in the county, but within 20 or 30 miles of here that are National Bluegrass Association award winners this year. In fact, Junior is the Vocalist of the Year, and Sam. They’re friends of ours. They all live within 30 miles of us, but we have them quite often on our festival. They’re National Award winners, and so we’ve got some great music right here locally.
CV: Awesome. Well, it’s so great to see a project like this, where you guys wanted to go ahead and have a bit of a change, and have the campground there and the festivals, and to see that it’s working out for you. So, thank you so much, again, David, for taking some time out of your day to talk to us this morning about Chantilly Farm in Virginia.
David Larson: Well, you’re quite welcome. It’s great talking to you. Thank you so much, and come on out and see us.
CV: Sounds great.