Summer is by far my favorite season for so many reasons; among them, fireflies, pool days and balmy backyard porch sessions on those sleepy Southern nights. But perhaps my favorite thing to love about summer is that it brings with it festival season. And if you aren’t festival ready, I’m here to help!
As someone who grew up in the heartland of country, Americana and roots music, I’ve been going to outdoor festivals as long as I can remember—particularly given that I hail from the county responsible for birthing Bonnaroo, which has been running strong for 18 years and debuted in an earlier rendition during my senior year in high school. And in those two decades I’ve been a regular concert goer—SVV and I typically attend two to three major festivals a summer—I’ve learned plenty of tricks to surviving festivals
Check your festival’s bag policy in advance. Like sports stadiums and arenas, many festivals have implemented clear bag policies for safety precautions, which often state you must carry a bag made of clear plastic, clear vinyl, or clear PVC if it’s any bigger than a fanny pack or pocketbook. The last thing you want is to get yourself to the festival grounds and haul your items to the gate, only to get turned away and sent back to your car to offload your valuables. Invest in a fanny pack (words I never thought I would say!) or buy a cheap clear messenger bag so you’ll be ready the next time you head to an outdoor show or sporting event. I have this $14 version from Amazon, and it works like a charm.
Pack reusable items, like a water bottle, metal straws and your own bamboo silverware. Many festivals like Bonnaroo have taken a much-needed interest in sustainability and have moved to compost-only materials; however, not all have. And even with festivals that do compost, I still like to take in my own reusable cup or metal drinking container to further reduce the potential for waste. I’m a big fan of Swell bottles, but almost any metal drinking canister will do.
Have a meeting spot for your group. Most festivals don’t have great cell coverage, so it’s best to establish a meeting point when you first arrive should your group get separated, as I guarantee at least some point during your festival, you won’t be able to send a text or make an outgoing call. SVV and I recently got separated during a headlining act at the main stage of Roo, and given that I couldn’t send a text or call, it took us over an hour to find each other. We learned our lesson and now have a central meeting point for all future festivals at Great Stage Park.
… or carry a totem. Ever wonder why certain festival goers travel with a large pole bearing their state or country flag, a symbol like a question mark, a pop culture reference or a “YASS, KWEEN” sign (my favorite spotting from this year’s Bonnaroo)? Consider it the original Find Friends, from well before iPhones became an appendage. They’re called totems and are visible ways for your family or friends to find you in a sea of 80,000 people spread across a 700-acre farm. They’re actually quite genius if you think about it and an opportunity to get crafty creating your own custom totem.
Plan your costumes accordingly. One of the most fun parts of attending Bonnaroo is people-watching. The event is held in the heat of the Southern summer, so many festival goers are scantily clad or in bikinis, anything to keep cool, while others spend months perfecting their costumes. I’m usually in the stay-cool-at-any-cost camp, so just wear my most breathable clothes—though I do add accessories like fun sunglasses or headscarves—but I love the creativity other festival attendees exercise.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Every year at Bonnaroo, at least a few people fall victim to heat exhaustion and don’t realize it until it’s too late. Have a canister of water handy at all times and use those refill stations generously.
Pack sunscreen and a beach towel. I don’t like carrying around cumbersome beach chairs when I attend outdoor events, so I roll the smallest beach towel I have up into my (clear!) backpack and use that as seating for both SVV and me. I also always pack plenty of sunscreen, chapstick and eye drops, my three most essential items after water for any outdoor festival.
Take plenty of snacks. Festival food is becoming increasingly more expensive—no joke, we paid $13 each for a pair of tiny tacos at Bonnaroo that wouldn’t be a filling meal for a teacup chihuahua—and as such, I now pack enough nibbles to get us through a long day. My new favorite snack for the summer arrived courtesy of Nature Valley, whose granola bars I have adored since I was a tot.
What’s your favorite tip to getting festival ready for the summer?