published Thursday, June 26th, 2014

In Tune: Couple chases festival dream with Fly Free Fest

Have you ever dreamed of putting on an outdoor music festival?

There's a certain romantic appeal to the idea. Who hasn't seen pictures of the sea of crowds at Bonnaroo or Woodstock and wanted to be the man or woman responsible?

That's the goal. Actually making a festival a reality, however, is a special kind of madness.

The list of potential headaches ranges from locating a site and securing sponsors to hiring security and promoting it. And the weather, of course. Nothing can kill an outdoor event faster than rain -- except perhaps lightning -- and we get thunderstorms on occasion practically every day in the Southeast.

Yet despite the very real risk of failure, there are individuals who are willing to chase the dream. Corey Petree and wife Polleen are two of them.

In 2013, the Chattanooga-based couple planned to host more than the usual amount of live music at their wedding in April. Their ambitions soon outgrew the scope of their nuptials, however, so they decided to push the show back, add more bands and invite the public.

Last October, the debut Fly Free Fest attracted about 1,100 guests to Adams, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Nashville. This year, the Petrees are hoping to bring about 2,000 people to the second Fly Free Fest, which will take place Oct. 10-12 at Cherokee Farms in LaFayette, Ga.

Last year, the schedule included artists such as RJD2, JEFF the Brotherhood, Moon Taxi and Papadosio. For $95, guests this year will enjoy a 40-act lineup that is just as diverse, including Railroad Earth, The Motet, Seven Handle Circus and Paper Bird, as well as a slew of local and regional bands.

Petree says he hopes that by moving the event closer to Chattanooga, they'll attract even more local fans and save themselves from competing with the laundry list of festivals near Nashville.

The Petrees are not aiming to be Bonnaroo or even Riverbend, Petree says. Those events are too big and impersonal. Instead, they'd like to maintain the musical variation of a bigger festival while offering a more intimate, laid-back atmosphere.

And based on the buzz from last year, he says, that approach has an audience.

"People really seemed to get behind our mission," Petree says. "The diversity allows for a lot more musical discovery. That's one of the best thing about festivals, helping you discover new things about yourself and music."

Wise words -- for a mad man.

Find out more about the event -- which I honestly am stoked about -- at

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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