Festival season is definitely upon us and we’ve hit the ground running this year. We’ve already been to the Kite Festival, Hogs for the Cause, and Festival de Los Islenos. We’re counting the minutes until French Quarter Fest starts. And we’re tapping our feet in anticipation of this year’s Jazz Fest. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that with all-day festivals, it is important to come prepared. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten sunburned when I thought I had slathered on enough sunscreen or (yuck) I waited in line for 20 minutes only to find that the Port O’Potty I picked was out of everything even remotely resembling toilet paper. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I consider crucial for surviving festival season in NOLA (and added in a couple of wish list items that I’ve been eyeing already this year).
Some things may seem pretty obvious, but I’ve found that if I don’t double check myself before I run out the door, I will have forgotten something and (in most cases) once you’re inside those festival gates, there’s no running back home or to the car for reinforcements. And keep in mind that some festivals require more or less gear than others. For example, we prefer to keep it light for French Quarter Fest because we do a ton of walking around. But for Jazz Fest I like to have enough gear for contingency plans because that ticket is too darn pricey to head home if I’m uncomfortable after just a couple of hours.
So, without further ado, here is Cupcake’s Festival Survival Guide for 2012:
First things first, if it rains any time close to or on the day of the festival, flip flops really don’t work. I have tried and tried and tried to wear flip flops in the mud, but walking becomes so darn difficult and by the end of the day my legs are worn out. Plus, if it’s really muddy, you’ll be wearing it thanks to the “flip” in those flip flops, which sends mud flying with each step. When it gets that bad, you may be tempted to just go without shoes entirely, but once I started thinking about what I was stepping in, I couldn’t do it. And honestly who wants to walk around in all that muck barefoot? A pair of good rain boots is essential. I got my pair from Target a few years ago for a particularly muddy Jazz Fest, but I keep eyeing these Hunter boots as my next upgrade. Paired with a fun sundress, these actually make a pretty cute festival outfit if I do say so myself. Of course, you don’t need fancy boots. A good pair of shrimp boots will do the trick too.
Next you’ll need sunglasses. If it’s not raining, it’s going to be sunny, and your peepers will thank you for remembering the shades. Even if it is raining, you know that the weather can change at any moment, so toss ‘em in.
Rain or shine, you need sunscreen. As fair skinned as I am, I ALWAYS manage to miss a spot and get a lovely burn at least once a year. But the spray sunscreen has definitely helped me minimize that discomfort. Apply early and apply often. Whether you think you need it or not, you’ll really hate being stuck out there if you start burning and don’t have any way to stop it.
You need a hat. I like having one with me that I can toss in my backpack, but at some point in the day I’m always glad you brought one. If nothing else than to hold your hair out of your face, a hat is a must.
Folding chairs are really nice for a long day of festing. Pick something that comes with a carrying case, and that’s light enough that you won’t mind having it with you when you’re walking around. $1.25 snagged an awesome chair last year that has a cup holder big enough to hold the iced tea at Jazz Fest and it’s his pride and joy. So, if you’re like $1.25, you might want to confirm that the cup holders will accommodate your festival beverage of choice when you’re shopping.
Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and napkins. This one may seem self explanatory, but really there are a multitude of uses for all three. Just think about how much delicious food they serve at all these festivals. And then think about the fact that at least one major festival is held in a horse ring and another is in the Quarter. It probably isn’t a bad idea to give your paws a few quick swipes before you chow down. Plus a lot of the foods are messy, so having these around is just a good general practice if you ask me. (And as I menitoned earlier, you’ll probably want to take a handful of napkins with you to the Port O’Potty line, just in case.)
This next one is really a wish list item for me. It’s called a Sport-Brella. I’ve been seeing more and more of these umbrellas-with-sides at festivals. I’m pasty white and burn like a lobster, so these things make a lot of sense to me. They offer shade, ventilation, and they fold up to a manageable umbrella that you can carry. Plus, for those of you who are concerned, they are pretty low profile, so you won’t obstruct the views of people around you. $1.25 and I tend to sit in the back anyway, but I don’t think these would be too bothersome in the crowds as long as you’re not trying for the front row. It seems like most chairs fit nicely underneath too.
$1.25 loves these shoes as an alternative to the rain/shrimp boots. For the aforementioned flip flop problem, another solution would be to just wear sandals with a back. Think 1990′s Tevas or something along those lines. But since $1.25 refuses to wear anything resembling a “mandal” he recommends these sneakers made by New Balance that actually have holes in the soles and the sides to allow water to flow through. Not really my thing, but he loved his (until they mysteriously disappeared when he left them on the porch to dry one night). They are good for running on rainy days too.
A very lightweight rain jacket is also essential. Even if the skies are blue and there’s not a chance of rain for days, pack the darn thing. If you don’t have it, you’ll need it. Not that there’s anything wrong with festing in the rain. $1.25 and I had some very fun times at the rainiest Jazz Fest I can remember. But it’s still a little easier to take when you have a way to stay (somewhat) dry. I’ve been known to use mine as a shelter from the sun sometimes too. (Notice a theme here? I have no choice but to hide from the sun.)
Another hint: throw in some ziplock bags. Your camera, your cell phone, your watch, etc. will thank you if the skies open up.
There you go. My list of festival essentials. Is there anything you can’t live without this time of year?