Bad news for Cabin Fever

Jammers congregate at The Cabin Fever Pickin Party in Hampton, VAThe Cabin Fever Pickin’ Party has become a bluegrass institution, hosting a large indoor festival and massive jam each winter in Hampton, VA.

The event started as a small, local event in Williamsburg, VA in 1995 and has grown to an annual weekend gathering that draws pickers and bluegrass lovers from all over the eastern US. It combines showcase performances from mostly up-and-coming bands with instructional workshops, bluegrass vendors, and 24 hour jamming.

Cabin Fever completely engulfs its host venue, The Holiday Inn Hampton Hotel & Conference Center, and a number of nearby hotels are filled to capacity each year as well. Regular attendees know to get their reservations in early, but for the March 5-8 festival in 2009, a shadow has fallen on the familiar lay of the land.

The Daily Press, Hampton’s local paper, is reporting that jam band/deadhead favorites Phish have scheduled three shows at the nearby Hampton Coliseum that same weekend. Given the speed with which news travels in the that world, Phish Phans have snapped up all available rooms at the Holiday Inn, and at nearly every hotel for miles around.

The paper quotes event organizer Earl Banton, who is frustrated that the Holiday Inn didn’t let him know what was occurring.

“It’s probably going to be a problem,” Banton said. “I foresee a lack of hotel rooms and parking … It will force us to look at some other options. The way I always look at it, if somebody wants your business, they court you. But once you’re already there, they forget about you. That’s how we feel.”

Cabin Fever is a small event compared to a gigantic three-day rock extravaganza, but it’s still pretty big by most other standards. Last year’s edition drew about 3,000 bluegrass lovers ‚Äî most of them with armed with instruments and eager to jam.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Banton said. “I feel pretty worn out with being stepped on … What’s really aggravating is the lack of communication.”

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • aburtch

    “It’s probably going to be a problem,” Banton said.

    It WILL be a problem. Phish had disbanded and this will be their first shows together in years. This will translate into thousands of people flooding Hampton over that particular weekend.

    “It’s a little disappointing,” Banton said. “I feel pretty worn out with being stepped on … What’s really aggravating is the lack of communication.”

    However, in defense of the hotel, Phish was very secretive about announcing the shows and only did so early last week. I highly doubt it’s anyone’s job from the Hampton Coliseum to alert local hotels as to confidential booking negotiations. I can understand how Mr. Banton feels, but it looks like circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control.

  • ryanfbaker

    Having reserved a hotel room for the area myself (for the Phish show, sorry bluegrassers), I can tell you that although thousands of Phish fans have scooped up anything resembling a hotel room already, a very small percentage of these people are going to end up with tickets to the shows.

    I guarantee that in the weeks before the event, a large number of disappointed phishheads will be cancelling their reservations, opening some up for our bluegrass-loving friends. Persistence will pay off.

  • Move Cabin Fever to Richmond. We’d LOVE to have y’all -!