ABOVE: Parking lots around the festival became tailgating sites as patrons took shelter in their cars. // BROOKE WANSER
A drenching rain, preceded by a quick evacuation of The Park at Harlinsdale Farm after lightning strikes were detected just miles from the park punctuated day one of the two-day Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival and eventually resulted in the decision not to resume programming Saturday night.
As dark clouds headed toward the park from the south, an announcement over the festival PA system interrupted Mat Kearney’s set shortly after 4 p.m.:
“THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS INDICATED THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE WEATHER IN THE VICINITY OF HARLINSDALE. AT THIS TIME, WE ARE TEMPORARILY SUSPENDING ALL FESTIVAL PROGRAMMING AND ARE ADVISING ALL GUESTS TO SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.
YOUR SAFETY DURING SEVERE WEATHER IS YOUR PERSONAL
RESPONSIBILITY. WE STRONGLY ADVISE ALL GUESTS TO VACATE THE VENUE AND SEEK SHELTER IN YOUR VEHICLES, ACROSS THE STREET AT THE FACTORY OR AT LIBERTY ELEMENTARY. EVENT STAFF IS HERE TO ASSIST YOU AND WILL DIRECT YOU TO THE NEAREST EXIT. ONCE THE THREAT OF SEVERE WEATHER HAS PASSED, WE WILL RESUME ALL FESTIVAL PROGRAMMING.
WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE.”
Many crowded into a large tent on the festival grounds that housed a bar and televisions showing college football.
Others walked toward parking lots and to exits on Franklin Road. Several patrons carried cups of beer, which many chugged after being told they could not leave the grounds with them.
With such a large crowd in a flux, cellular phone voice and data service slowed.
Due to the heavy exodus of pedestrians, Franklin Police Officers kept cars off Franklin Road during the evacuation of the festival grounds.
Minutes later Mafioza’s Restaurant in front of The Factory was packed, as were both common areas and restaurants such as Mojo’s Tacos inside The Factory. Police tweeted a request for patrons to move deeper into The Factory to allow more people inside.
Most people took it all in stride, with some parking lots around the area looking more like tailgating areas.
Nathan Emery, from Hendersonville, was enjoying his third Pilgrimage Festival when the warning was issued. Asked if the weather had spoiled it, he said, “Hell no! This is Nashville at its finest,” referring to the camaraderie of evacuated patrons in a parking lot near the festival grounds.
Just before 7 p.m. the official word came down that they would not be resuming festival entertainment, which was to include headliner Jack White.
Sunday’s forecast includes an 80% chance of rain.