From Asheville to the Outer Banks, North Carolina is bursting with summer festivals that vary in size and tradition.
This weekend alone: MerleFest – probably the state’s best music festival – is underway in Wilkesboro, featuring Merle Haggard, Old Crow Medicine Show, Alan Jackson and many others; the Art of Cool Festival in Durham has free outdoor sessions Friday and Saturday; the Triangle Beach Music Festival is going on Saturday in Garner; and in Asheville, Moogfest grooves all weekend, celebrating progressive rock, tech and art.
But whether you’re blissing out to bluegrass or rocking hard to Zed’s Dead, festivals share common themes – crowds, delicious (albeit artery-clogging) food and loud music. And in most situations, the same rules apply to attending both large and small fests.
Avoid summer celebration buzzkills with these tips.
What to wear
Clothing at outdoor summer festivals can be tricky, especially when you’re camping. Be prepared to sweat all day while the sun beats down, but night can bring cool temps or a more dressy party scene.
Most festival junkies suggest dressing in layers and bringing a variety (though not a ton) of clothing options. Also recommended: convertible pants (the legs zip off to become shorts).
Hats and sunscreen are a must, as is comfort. Also, bring along good rain gear (and maybe even a tarp to cover your stuff during a shower).
Adding some flair to the basic festival uniform is highly encouraged. Music fests are the perfect time to wear anything one may deem “inappropriate” or too “out there” for every other day of the year.
Nontraditional attire – including tutus and banana hammocks – are staples at large festivals. Glitter and face paint are also acceptable.
Food and drink
Hydration is essential to feeling good and staying alert during hectic festival time. Drink lots of water and then drink some more. The last thing any festivalgoer wants is to pass out just as a favorite act is walking onstage.
Snacking is also key. Fruit and protein bars keep you going after some serious crowd surfing or banjo-plucking have taken place.
And of course, consume alcohol in moderation. Dropping hundreds of dollars on shows only to black out during the performance makes you That Guy, and no one wants to be That Guy.
What to attend
Greg Lowenhagen, the founder and director of Hopscotch Music Festival, which takes place in September, recommends entering a festival with an open mind.
It’s impossible to see every act and attend every event at a festival, he said, so embrace the acts and events you can attend.
And pace yourself.
“Don’t go too crazy the first night so you’re sick or tired or ‘over it’ by day two,” he said. “You’ve got a long way to go.”