Thousands hit town to party at Fest 12


Fans sing a long and dance as Big D & Kids Table play a set at 8 Seconds during Fest 12 on Thursday.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:53 p.m.

Across the country, millions spent Thursday preparing for trick-or-treaters. But for Joseph Scannella, guest services manager at the Gainesville Holiday Inn at University and 13th Street, Halloween brought a different sort of caller, and a couple thousand of them, to boot.

The Holiday Inn at 13th and University was a flurry of activity Thursday as several thousand punk rock fans from and the world descended on Gainesville for Fest 12, an annual music festival. While the bulk of the performances take place in bars and clubs downtown, the Holiday Inn serves as the administrative center of Fest and traditionally houses the largest segment of attendees, with around 600 occupying all 167 rooms, block purchased by Fest organizers.

"It's one of the busier weekends of the year. We could compare it to the bigger home football games," said Scannella, for who marked his fourth year hosting Fest as a Holiday Inn employee. "The difference is the attendees of the fest come here for the weekend and come to have a good time the whole time."

More than 2,000 fans pre-purchased passes to see the 200 official bands and performers, the bulk of whom had to register at the festival's ad hoc headquarters in the hotel's conference room for their wristbands.

But with hundreds of attendees waiting in line and a limited number of staff and volunteers to help them, a line snaked from the conference room, down the stairs around the parking lot and through the loading docks for much of the day. The crowd was heavy on tattoos and black shirts, but interspersed with Halloween costumes, crew cuts and business casual attire. Keeping up a festive spirit and seeking relief from the heat, attendees availed themselves of 16-ounce cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the Fest's go-to beer, and bottled water, hawked by crop-top clad staff of the hotel's O'Bradys, either from ice tubs or peddled on foot.

Fest 12 was Amanda Crews' first, manning the beer and water stand in the loading area.

"It's fun, it's busy," she said. "It was different than I expected. I was expecting a bunch of hippies. They're a little older than I expected."

The second floor conference room bustled with activity as staff and volunteers divvied out wristbands to attendees and band members and others perused the Fest flea market where vendors offered books, records, themed gourmet coffee, magazines, T-shirts, Halloween costumes, complimentary Mohawk-style haircuts and more Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The third floor terrace, meanwhile, hosted the traditionally raucous Fest pool party, where Fest-goers sought relief from the mid-80s heat in the pool and took in DJs, sets from the Scavuzzos and live karaoke band First Base and the Hits, and a costume contest hosted by Gainesville band Less Than Jake.

Jamie White played Fest three times with his former band the Backlist, and 2013 will be his first with his new band, Sexx, who are slated to play at Durty Nelly's Saturday night. Ordering pizza across the street at Fest-fixture Leonardo's-By-The-Slice, he acknowledged the event's wilder side. "It's a party, I hate to admit it." But the Nashville-native sees another side to the weekend. "But it's also a family reunion. I get to see every band I've toured with back in the day."

Scannella at Holiday Inn said that, while busy, this year's registration was tamer than those of years past.

"It's been pretty similar, I don't think the line was as long."

While attendance is down from past years, he said that the lull could be chalked up to late-comers who were arriving from pre-Fest concerts in Ybor City and from attendees who were coming in today, the starting day for past Fests. Still, Scannella expects an eventful Fest weekend.

"People who come for Fest don't stop having a good time. They don't sleep," Scannella said. "There's a constant flow of people coming and going at all hours."

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