Wait — but what if you’ve never been to a festival before? Or what if the last time you went, it was a disaster? Not to worry. We caught up with a few seasoned festival-goers and compiled the definitive survival guide to keep you both stress-free and prepared. Whether you’re checking out jazz bands in Old Town or hitting the road for Lollapalooza, our list of festival tips will help you get turnt responsibly.
Step 1: Bring your tickets
Now if it has happened to you in the past, we’re not judging you (well, maybe a little bit), but make absolutely sure you have your tickets. And if it’s one of several wristbands that you’ve purchased for a multi-day event like Common Ground, make sure you’ve put on the correct one. The last thing you want to happen is to waste a good pass or to arrive and realize you left the tickets on the counter next to your Cheerios.
Step 2: Know the lineup
When you get to the festival, there will probably be several stages. It’s a rookie move to not know when your favorite bands are going on, so make sure to carry the schedule with you, and a paper copy isn’t a bad idea. Phones die, but paper never does, because it’s already dead.
Step 3: Hydrate
Just like a doting mother, City Pulse urges you to drink enough water! Summer is usually hot, and packing places with tons of people makes it seem even hotter. Combine those factors with the Jägermeister you were pre-gaming before stepping out, and that’s a heat stroke waiting to happen.
The DanceSafe website advises festivalgoers to drink a bottle of water an hour, but never more than 2-4 cups. And it offers a warning to certain festival attendees: “Water is not an antidote to any psychoactive drug.”
“I know at (Vans) Warped Tour you can’t bring a full water bottle in, but you can bring in an empty one, and they’ve got water stations to fill up on,” said local festival fan Megan MacGregor. “The only water bottles I use have a clip on them so I can clip them to my pants or backpack.”
Step 4: Dress for the weather
Do stilettos look great on you? Yes. Should you bring them to a summer event? Maybe. Should you wear them to a music festival? Not if you don’t like bleeding. It’s best to hook yourself up with some walking shoes you aren’t afraid of getting a little muddy, or even trampled (sad reality).
It’s also wise to forego anything that might inhibit your ability to breathe or use the bathroom. Yeah, that romper you bought on Etsy is super cute, but when you’re wrestling with it in a cramped porta potty that’s already been used by several hundred people, you’ll hate yourself. This also goes for people who like to go full spandex. (I’m talking to you, weird body suit people.)
Rain gear is also smart. Compact rain ponchos usually sell for less than $5 and are well worth the money.
Step 5: Bring cash
Though many festivals have card readers, you’ll likely encounter a hot dog stand or T- shirt vendor that only accepts bills. It’ll also cut down time in line. Card readers take 6-7 seconds to work, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but multiply that by a few hundred people and you’ve got hours wasted.
Step 6: Have storage
There is a childlike freedom in walking the world with nothing but the clothes on your back, but it makes you the annoying friend at a festival. If you’re always putting your wallet and keys in your friend’s bag, you’re not only inconveniencing them, but you’re also dependent on them and can’t do anything by yourself. Childlike indeed.
Drawstring backpacks are the way to go. They’re lightweight, spacious and difficult to snatch by would-be thieves.
Step 7: Protect yourself
Whether it’s from the sun, too loud music or even just from shady festival guests, it’s wise to come prepared. The holy trinity of festival protection is as follows: sunscreen, ear plugs and a drug testing kit for late nights out. The drug kit might seem like overkill, but it’s easy to lose track of drinks in a festival atmosphere.
“Even though I know I’ll get burned every time, I keep telling myself, ‘Oh, you don’t need sunscreen,’” said festival lover Daniel Rayzel. “A few hours later, and my beef jerky of a neck is saying otherwise.”
Step 8: Entertain yourself
Festivals are built to entertain, but if you’re there all day, you might just need some time to sit and chill with your friends. A deck of cards is a good way to eat up time if you have a long gap between shows you want to see. It’s also a good icebreaker if you meet new friends.
“My personal favorite festival experience was Summer Camp in Chillicothe, Ill.,” said festival veteran Anna Gustafson. “I spent the weekend with so many people I cared about, and seeing all of those people get along so well with each other was magical.”
Step 9: Bring your charger
Let’s face it, if your phone dies in the middle of a festival, it’s going to suck. You’ll not only have no way of contacting your friends (who totally might be meeting your favorite artist and have no way of contacting you), but you’ll also probably get lost without GPS. Wall chargers are good if you can find an outlet, but rechargeable battery chargers are a lifesaver when you can’t get to a plug.
Photos by Scott VanGilder
MAY 6-7 >> VICTORIAN DAYS
Grand Ledge’s blast from the past offers Civil War reenactments, Victorian-erathemed activities and historic demonstrations. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. both days. FREE. Downtown Grand Ledge. (517) 316-6694, victoriandays.org.
MAY 12-14 >> MIGHTY UKE DAY
The seventh annual celebration of all things ukulele invades Old Town for a three-day festival of performances, workshops, group strums and more. The theme for this year’s Mighty Uke Day is “The Women of the Great Uke State,” and headliners include Michigan native Rachael Davis and Heidi Swedberg, a musician and actress many people know from her role as Susan, George Costanza’s fiancee on “Seinfeld.” See the website for schedule, locations and prices. (517) 896-4025, mightyukeday.com.
MAY 20-21 >> EAST LANSING ART FESTIVAL
Hundreds of artists flood the streets of downtown East Lansing next month for the 54th annual East Lansing Art Festival. In addition to art vendors from the Midwest and beyond, the festival offers a packed slate of musical acts, children’s activities and a food court. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sunday. FREE. (517) 319-6804, elartfest.com.
MAY 20-21 >> MSU SPRING ARTS AND CRAFTS SHOW
Across the street from the East Lansing Art Festival, MSU’s Spring Arts and Crafts Show takes over the lawns and streets around the MSU Union. The show features over 300 crafters and artisans, and application fees go toward free event programming for MSU students. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. FREE. MSU Union, 49 Abbot Road, East Lansing. (517) 355 -3354, uabevents.com.
JUNE 3 >> BE A TOURIST IN YOUR OWN TOWN
The Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau offers locals a chance to discover hidden gems or check out that museum they’ve always meant to go to. A $1 passport gives participants access to over 80 local attractions, including Potter Park Zoo and Impression 5 Center. Participating locations will stamp passports, and participants who collect enough stamps are eligible for prizes. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $1. Participating locations throughout Greater Lansing. (517) 487- 2800, lansing.org/batyot.
JUNE 3-4 >> RIVERBANK TRADITIONAL POW WOW
Lansing’s celebration of Native American culture, the Riverbank Traditional Pow Wow, returns this summer for its 15th annual event. The three-day event features traditional drumming, singing, dancing and art, as well as food vendors. Educational activities offer visitors a chance to learn more about Native American medicines or listen to a traditional storyteller. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chair. See the website for schedule. FREE. Adado Riverfront Park, 201 E. Shiawassee St., Lansing. (517) 721-1502 nativeamericanacc.org.
JUNE 15-17 >> LANSING JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION
While Juneteenth has been an official Michigan holiday for 12 years, its roots in the Lansing community date back to 1993. The annual festival, which celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S., started as a small church gathering but has grown into a weeklong celebration of African American culture, including live music and dance, childrens’ activities and a baseball game commemorating the Negro League. See the website for schedule and locations. FREE. (517) 394- 6900, lansingjuneteenthcelebration.org.
JUNE 16-17 >> MICHIGAN PRIDE MARCH, RALLY AND FESTIVAL
While details have yet to be announced, the statewide festival supporting the LGBTQ community usually includes a rally at the Capitol, a festival with live music and more. See website for prices and schedule. michiganpride.org.
JUNE 17 >> LANSING BEER FEST
Many of Michigan’s best loved breweries, wineries and cideries take over the streets of REO Town again this summer for the Lansing Beer Fest. In addition to the over 100 beers, wines and ciders available to sample, the festival offers food vendors and live music. See website for prices and schedule. REO Town. (517) 331-0528, lansingbeerfest.com.
JUNE 17 >> OLDSMOBILE HOME- COMING CAR SHOW & SWAP MEET
The local chapter of the Oldsmobile Club of America celebrates Lansing’s automotive history with the world’s largest all-Oldsmobile car show. This year’s gathering will celebrate the 50th anniversary of all 1967 Oldsmobiles and will give attendees a chance to check out a Curved Dash Oldsmobile, the first mass-produced American automobile. The event is free to attend; registration fees required to show or sell cars. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. FREE. Auto Owners Insurance, 6101 Anacapri Blvd., Lansing. (517) 645-7438, reolds.org.
JUNE 22-24 >> CHARLOTTE BLUE- GRASS FESTIVAL
Bluegrass pickers and fans from all over descend on Charlotte for the city’s annual Appalachian extravaganza. The three-day event features national and local musical acts, as well as plenty of old fashioned parking lot picking sessions. See the website for schedule and prices. Eaton County Fairgrounds, 1025 S. Cochran Ave., Charlotte. (269) 832-5519, charlottebluegrassfestival.com.
JUNE 23-24 >> SUMMER SOLSTICE JAZZ FESTIVAL
East Lansing’s Summer Solstice Jazz Festival will raise its already considerable game with a headline combo featuring two of jazz’s living legends, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson and organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and the powerhouse duo of avant-garde saxophonist David Murray and percussionist Kahil El’Zabar.
Donaldson, who recently turned 90, and Smith are masters of the funky, greasy hard bop that took over jukeboxes in the 1950s and ‘60s and surged back into popularity in the 1990s.
The usual cornucopia of top mid-Michigan talent and MSU professors and students will also turn out in force, along with guest artists from around the country and as far as Spain. Under artistic director and MSU Jazz Studies director Rodney Whitaker, the festival has diversified its musical palette to non-traditional styles of jazz and attracted internationally known performers.
Other artists appearing at the main tent in downtown East Lansing are internationally acclaimed Latin-jazz violinist Maureen Choi, vocalists Twyla Birdsong and Ramona Collins, young Detroit R&B sensations Laura Rain and the Caesars, the Latin jazz ensemble Orquesta Ritmo and Whitaker’s own straight-ahead quintet. 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday; noon-1 a.m. Saturday. FREE. Downtown East Lansing. (517) 319-6980, eljazzfest.com.
JUNE 23-24 >> FESTIVAL OF THE MOON & FESTIVAL OF THE SUN
Old Town celebrates the summer solstice with a two-day party featuring live music, food, wine and craft beer. Attendees must be 21 or older. Early VIP entry is available, see the website for details. 6-11 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. See the website for prices. (517) 485-4283, iloveoldtown.org.
JULY 6-9 >> COMMON GROUND MUSIC FESTIVAL
This year’s Common Ground Music Festival features headliners Big Sean (July 9), Toby Keith (July 7) and Alessia Cara (July 6). Lansing’s largest music festival, Common Ground features a wide variety of national and local acts. Single day and full-festival passes are available; see website for prices and schedule. Adado Riverfront Park, 201 E. Shiawassee St., Lansing. (517) 267-1502, commongroundfest.com.
JULY 6-30 >> MICHIGAN SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
This year’s repertoire features the Bard’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Julius Caesar,” as well as Anton Chekov’s “The Seagull.” Single show tickets and three-show flex passes are available; see website for prices and showtimes. Baughman Theatre, 2111 Emmons Road, Jackson. (517) 998-3673, michiganshakespearefestival.com.
JULY 14-15 OLD TOWN SCRAPFEST
Teams of artists compete to turn one man’s trash into another man’s treasure at Old Town’s annual ScrapFest event. Up to 20 teams of artists have one hour to collect up to 500 pounds of scrap metal, then they have two weeks to fashion the metal into sculptures that will be unveiled at the festival. The two-day event also features live music, educational activities and a beer tent. See website for schedule. FREE. Old Town Lansing. (517) 485-4283, iloveoldtown.org.
JULY 29 >> CAR CAPITAL AUTO & BIKE SHOW
Hundreds of classic cars and motorcycles from multiple decades flood the streets of downtown Lansing for the Car Capital Auto Show. Vehicles compete for prizes in 68 categories, and all proceeds from the event benefit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. The event is free for spectators; registration fees are required for those wishing to show off their cars or bikes. Michigan State Capital,100 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing. (517) 372- 0529, carcapitalautoshow.com
AUG. 4-5 >>LANSING JAZZFEST
Old Town streets will be filled with the sounds of jazz once again this August for the 23rd annual JazzFest. Unwind and enjoy music from both local musicians and national acts while enjoying food from different vendors. Lineup and schedule to be announced. FREE. 1210 Turner St., Lansing. (517) 371-4600, jazzlansing.com
AUG. 5 >> ISLAND ART FAIR
For 43 years, the Island Art Fair has been selling and displaying art by the waterfront near downtown Grand Ledge. Attendees can purchase art by vendors from all over the state, check out some live music or snack on hot dogs and ice cream. 120 S. Bridge St., Grand Ledge. FREE. (517) 627-9843, ledgecraftlane.com.
AUG. 11-13 >> GREAT LAKES FOLK FESTIVAL
The MSU Museum and the city of East Lansing celebrate tradition and community with the Great Lakes Folk Festival. Festival goers can learn about cultures from all over the world with storytelling, demonstrations of traditional arts, foods and dancing. Children’s activities are also be available. Lineup and schedule to be announced. FREE, donations accepted. Downtown East Lansing. (517) 432-4533, greatlakesfolkfest.net.
AUG. 10-12, 17-19 >> RENEGADE THEATRE FESTIVAL
Lansing’s multi-venue theater festival showcases live performances ranging from comedy to drama and improv. The first weekend is dedicated to the festival’s N.O.W project, which features new original works, and the second features local theater groups. Schedule to be announced. FREE. renegadetheatrefestival.org.
AUG. 19 >> ARTFEAST
Art and food collide at ArtFeast, timed to complement the Renegade Theatre Festival, which combines an art fair, a sidewalk sale and a food truck rally. 1-4 p.m. Old Town, Lansing. (517) 485-4283, iloveoldtown.org.
AUG. 23 >> OLD US 27 MOTOR TOUR
Hundreds of classic cars stop in Dewitt on their tour from Coldwater to Cheboygan on the historic Old US 27 highway. Motorists interested in joining the tour can find details on the website. 6-9.pm. FREE. Downtown DeWitt. See website for more details, old27tour.com.
AUG. 25-27 >> SUN DRIED MUSIC FEST
A weekend-long of festival featuring two stages of live entertainment, as well as beer and wine tents for the 21+ crowd to partake in. Children can participate in special activities, and teens can get their groove on at their own Friday night dance with a DJ. Schedule and prices to be announced. Downtown Mason. sundriedfestival.com
SEPT. 15-16 >> MICHIGAN BLUESFEST
For over 20 years, the Michigan BluesFest, formerly known as the Old Town BluesFest has been entertaining the Lansing area with local and nationally known blues musicians. This year’s lineup and schedule to be announced. FREE. Old Town, Lansing. (517) 371-4600, oldtownbluesfest.com.