Editor’s Note: Dru Stinson is our in-house festival expert. Festival Hacks was published in June of 2018, but is still relevant to festival-goers.
It’s that time of year again, the magical time when people wear smiles and forget to be grumpy, they don their brightest clothing, apply crystals to their faces, and break out the fanny packs. Suntan lotion, bug spray, and sunglasses go on, hydration packs are filled, and the adventures begin.
Summer is here and festival time has arrived.
My favorite season of the year! These are the days that I dream about while sitting in my breakfast nook, scowling the snow. Sunshine has come back and I am able to pack away the sweaters in exchange for cutoffs and band t-shirts. I take out my planner, pen in hand, and start scheduling festival appearances. Soon, the squares are almost full, and I couldn’t be happier. There seems to be something every weekend, every day almost; summer camps, car and bike shows, fishing tournaments, celebrations for fruit and vegetables, fairs, carnivals, markets, marathons, rodeos, and more. I survey the list, it’s almost perfect, and then I add the thing I look forward to most, the thing that I have planned for months, the one that makes me the most excited. The out of state music festival! As a music enthusiast, I frequently attend concerts. I love them. It only makes sense that I would combine concerts with travel, my other passion.
Stagecoach, Bonnaroo, Lollapolooza, Life is Beautiful, I Heart Music, Woodstock, Firefly, Summer Fest, Mo Pop, the list could go on and on.
If there is a genre of music that you like, chances are there is a festival for you. These mega concerts have exploded in popularity over the past several years, and the growth doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. It seems that every state has at least one music festival, starting as early as April and trickling all the way into November. If you had the time and energy you could potentially run the circuit and attend nonstop concerts for over half of the year! Several years ago, I decided that I would start attending at least one out of state event per year. The only rule is that each year, I have to go to an event I have not attended previously. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
This year the chosen event was Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, Florida. I initially saw the lineup for this rock and metal festival in November, and within 5 minutes my friend and I had decided we were going. Tickets were purchased within the week. From that impulsive purchase, we worked tirelessly for weeks to get the scheduling nailed down, plane tickets purchased, and then the real fun began. We searched for the perfect accommodations, settling on a little condo right on Neptune Beach in Jacksonville where I would spend every morning on the beach with a cup of coffee welcoming the sunrise.
We planned our arrival in Orlando a day early so that we, as a very mature group of adults, could spend the day at Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A wand chose me, we rode many rides, soaked up some sun, then spent the evening by the pool. The next day we picked up our convertible and rode to Jax with the top down.
Everything was going perfectly! Finally, it was festival time! Three days of rocking out with old and new bands, food trucks, merchandise tents, and people watching.
There is an interesting difference between a festival in Alaska and one out of state–the weather.
In Alaska, I have been to a concert where it rained so hard that I was standing in water above my ankles and shivering in the cold but the show must go on – and it did.
Not so in Florida. After months of planning and excitement, we were there. Then the skies opened up; we were soaked. Then came the lightning and soon after, thunder. The delays began; people sought shelter wherever they could. And then everything got canceled.
We left the venue soggy and bedraggled, in low spirits. Away to find tacos we went, phones on, face up on the table, checking for notifications and updates on reopening. Our tasty dinner finished, the message we had been hoping for arrived. We were back on!
The weekend continued to be a series of postponements, the rain, lightning, sold-out merchandise, and the mosh pit that kept growing and growing. Through it all, we were able to make some incredible memories.
The main event, the person we were all there to see went on as planned, just a little later than expected.
We pushed our way as close to the stage as possible, and we even threw a few elbows to keep the moshers and crowd surfers at bay. Finally, bouncing with excitement and with stars in our eyes, we heard the first few strains of the guitar as Rob Zombie took the stage. Somehow, the adrenaline, the anxious waiting, the nervous fear that we might miss him due to the weather all dissipated. The trip was a raging success; we forgot all of the negatives as we raged with Rob during his perfect set.
All smiles, full of great stories and a few well-earned bruises, we reluctantly left Florida the next day.
Up next? Exit 111, Tennessee in the Autumn. I can’t wait.
If you are planning your first out of state festival trip, here are a few tips:
- Read the rules from top to bottom. Check out the list of items you can and can’t have. Pay attention to the bag rules. Many festivals no longer allow fanny packs, backpacks, hydration pouches, etc. You may have to purchase a clear bag to carry your goods.
- Some places have lockers to rent, some don’t. Pack accordingly.
- Bring an extra charger or power bank for your phone; you will run out of juice.
- Join a fan page on social media, talk to the other attendees, make a “festfam” before you go, you may have months to wait, and you can make some great friends between now and then. This is a social event after all — the more, the merrier.
- Wear sunscreen!
- Bring cash!
- Get sleep!
- Most of all, leave your worries behind; this is your time to enjoy life. Rock on festies.