ROCKINGHAM — The pit area at Rockingham Dragway, which on most weekends is home to hundreds of high-performance race cars, has been transformed this week to accommodate the biggest non-automotive event in Richmond County history.
The Epicenter Festival, an interactive entertainment experience created by Los Angeles-based Danny Wimmer Presents, features some of the biggest names in funk, metal, reggae, rap, and rock ‘n roll performing Friday through Sunday on four main stages erected just west of the dragstrip.
“Based on our past experience with these kinds of non-automotive events, the Epicenter Festival should provide an enormous economic boost for Richmond County and the surrounding area,” said Steve Earwood, who has owned and operated Rockingham Dragway since 1992. “It’s a major coup for our area since there were so many other venues that aggressively pursued these guys throughout the process.”
The Rock, which for the last 50 years continuously has produced major drag races, also has a history of hosting large-scale events unrelated to the sport. In addition to Lollapalooza, to which it played host in 1996 when Metallica was the headliner, the dragstrip also hosted an encore performance by the band in 2000 along with several other major concerts.
“It’s good for Rockingham and the Sandhills area,” Earwood said, “because it puts us on the map as an entertainment destination. Plus, you’d expect a lot of these folks to discover what we’re all about and come back at a later date to spend more time exploring all the things that make our region so special.”
Although the dragstrip is the festival’s entertainment focus, the 550-acres comprising the “Rockingham Festival Grounds” also include The Speedway and Entertainment Complex (the old North Carolina Motor Speedway), Richmond County land and privately-owned land.
Every bit of that real estate will be required to accommodate the projected 90,000 to 100,000 fans who will congregate over the three days including more than 15,000 who will camp out at locations including The Rock’s main parking lot off U.S. 1.
The Richmond County population will triple this week.
The festival is expected to provide a projected $40 million boost to the economies of Richmond, Moore and Scotland counties — which is why local agencies have been working around-the-clock to coordinate such things as emergency and environmental services and security. In addition to private security retained by DWP, 80 Carolina state troopers have been assigned to the event.
“The creation of the ‘epicenter of rock n’ roll’ in the heart of North Carolina gives us the ability to expand on the festival experience,” Wimmer said, “with enhanced camping amenities, nighttime entertainment and expanded food and beverage offerings, all highlighted by a massive music lineup covering the spectrum of rock, metal and alternative rock music.”
On-site food and beverage service will be provided by DWP’s affiliate concessionaire, Southern Hospitality Concessions, LLC, augmented by dozens of specialty food trucks including Grumpy’s Homemade Ice Cream, OooWee BBQ, Ticas Tacos, Electric Sliders, Ubora Coffee, Charlie Poppers Kettle Corn, Phat Daddy’s Creole and What’s the Catch fish tacos.
Fans 21 and older also can indulge the Caduceus Wine Garden, Heavy Tiki Bar, the Boilermaker Bar and the Headbangers Bier Hall as well as a variety of interactive displays including the USMC Boot Camp which features a shooting simulator and the “Pull Up Bar Challenge.”
Nevertheless, the focus will be on music with more than 20 bands playing each day including, Foo Fighters, Tool, Korn, Rob Zombie, Judas Priest, Bring Me the Horizon, The Cult, 311 (which mixes rock, rap and reggae), Evanescence, Bush (featuring Gavin Rossdale), rapper YelaWolf and Crobot, which blends funk, blues, metal and rock n’ roll.
The music begins at 2:10 p.m. Friday with DED on the Sirius XM Octane stage. Korn will close Friday’s show at 11 p.m. on the Monster Energy Stage. On Saturday, Alien Weaponry starts things off at 12:25 p.m. on the Pine stage and Tool closes with a set on the Monster Energy stage starting at 10:15 p.m. In between, Busch and Judas Priest play the Quarry stage at 6:45 and 8:55 p.m., respectively.
Sunday’s final day begins at 12:25 p.m. with Demob Happy on the Pine Stage. Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters handle the finale at 9:40 p.m. on the Monster Energy stage.
For additional information and showtimes, go to www.epicenterfestival.com.