GUTHRIE — As singer-songwriter Willy Mason sang to thousands of sweaty but appreciative fans on a huge stage at Cottonwood Flats in downtown Guthrie on Friday night, the band that organized the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, Mumford & Sons, was in a tent backstage, quietly making the name of their touring festival mean something to thousands of Oklahomans.
No photographs were allowed as Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane presented a check for $109,000 to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma — the proceeds from the first 1,000 tickets sold during the second wave of tickets released for the two-day festival. It was a gentlemanly gesture that, according to representatives from the Food Bank, will provide up to 500,000 meals for Oklahomans affected by the May tornadoes that hit Moore, Shawnee, Carney and other Oklahoma towns.
“They are probably the nicest guys I've met in my entire life,” said Angie Gaines, director of marketing at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. “They are very much genuine people who want to help out. They kept saying to us, ‘Thank you for what you do at the Food Bank,' and it's wonderful to meet a group of musicians who want to give back and want to help the community. To help Oklahoma.”
David Fitzgerald of DCF Concerts, the Oklahoma City-based promoter for the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, said the donation was made possible after DCF put an additional 10,000 tickets on sale after the initial 25,000 tickets sold out in February. A slight change in the stage positioning made it possible to sell 35,000 total tickets and make the donation possible.
“The tickets were $109 apiece, and so now they are presenting a check for $109,000.”
The donation was in keeping with the general tone of Gentlemen of the Road, a festival in which Mumford & Sons, Mason, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Alabama Shakes, Justin Townes Earle, Haim and other acts partner with the towns they visit, creating opportunities for cities like Guthrie to raise significant tax revenues from the events.
Gates opened at 4 p.m. Friday at Cottonwood Flats as wristband holders staked out their territory in front of the stage.
Clay Pirtle, 38, drove from Sulphur Springs, Texas, to meet Dustin Welch and Layna Welch, of Edmond and Arcadia. Pirtle had met the Welches at a Magnetic Zeros show in Tulsa, and drove four and a half hours for Gentlemen of the Road, getting there in time to find a spot about 12 feet from the stage.
“My wife couldn't get off work, so I came by myself and met them,” Pirtle said.
For Amy Clarkson, the trip to Cottonwood Flats was short, but the Guthrie resident said that sudden influx of music fans has not been a problem at all for her hometown.
“The traffic is crazy, but it's not too bad,” said Clarkson, 32. “It's not what people were expecting. We came in from the west and we had no problem.”
Fitzgerald said he started working on bringing Gentlemen of the Road to Guthrie a year ago, but he said that the event, which culminates in a headlining performance by Mumford & Sons on Saturday night, is moving smoothly for such a large operation.
“Everything's really organized — a lot of tickets sold, and everything's working well so far,” he said.
But after the stage comes down, Gaines said, the lasting impact will come from that check that the Regional Food Bank received from Mumford & Sons.
“We're just so grateful to them, because there's been a huge increase in need,” Gaines said.