Festival camping as a business is common at FloydFest, with rental tents and yurts in multiple spots . A Wisconsin man named David Versch was the first to do it there.
The man they called “Dancin’ Dave” was a fixture at FloydFest and many other events for years, becoming a friend or even dancing partner to folks who weren’t staying at his spot behind the beer garden stage.
Versch became estranged from FloydFest in recent years, though, after organizers wanted him to move from prime campsite territory that Versch had cleared and maintained. Dancin’ Dave’s Festival Camping, which he later sold, remained a fixture at FloydFest. Versch remained the business’s public face and dancer at events such as MerleFest and his favorite, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, among others.
But not at FloydFest. He vowed never to return. John McBroom, a longtime festival supporter who is now its chief executive officer, lured Versch back to the site in 2018. “Dancin’ Dave” caught up with old friends and danced all weekend.
It would be Versch’s final FloydFest. He died the following October, on his way home from the LEAF Festival, near Asheville, North Carolina.
Friends, fans and fellow dancers at multiple events have been paying their respects to Versch at festivals ever since, said Susan Byer, who bought the business in 2014. In tents at the Dancin’ Dave’s site this week, campers found copies of the Martin Clark book “The Substitution Order,” alongside a note about Clark’s friendship with Versch.
Clark, a retired Patrick County circuit court judge who has made a second career as a novelist, stayed at Dancin’ Dave’s FloydFest camps for years, and they became fast friends. Versch showed up early last year and spent a night at Clark’s before heading back to FloydFest.
Versch suggested Clark’s books to anyone he thought was interested in reading.
“It’s like having Flannery O’Connor or John Cheever or somebody — what a storyteller — come and hang out with you,” Clark said. “What a wonderful guy. He just had a real humble, engaging charisma. He was a gregarious, funny guy. He had just such a good, good, whole soul. I think that’s why people wanted to be around him.”
Versch apparently had cut himself while helping Byer and her crew at LEAF. An infection set in and became septic. Versch grew increasingly ill before a stranger found him in his car, unable to speak, in an Indianapolis parking lot, Byer said. Versch, 69, died Oct. 26, 2018, at a hospital there.
“He’s one of my best friends,” McBroom, now the FloydFest CEO, said. “Ever since I’ve been involved in the ownership capacity, I’ve been trying to get him to come back. … And we were blessed to have him, because life is short.”
Byer met Versch when they danced together at Florida’s Suwannee Springfest, in 2009. He became “a friend who is like a dad,” she said. Byer met her partner, John Furbush, the same weekend.
Byer and Furbush have a son, Ever, 18 months old. Versch loved spending time with the boy, Byer said. Versch was Ever’s “Uncle Grandpa,” and his widow, Lynn, is “Auntie Grandma,” she said.
“He was supposed to teach Ever how to dance, so I would always have somebody to dance with,” she said, her voice breaking as tears came to her eyes.
Full disclosure: This reporter has stayed in a Dancin’ Dave tent at many FloydFests, and counted Versch as a friend.