Last month I set out to Dover, Delaware for my first-ever music / camping festival, Firefly. This was unlike anything I’ve done before: the closest I had come to camping prior was sleeping in a tent in my backyard with some friends one night in high school. I’m pretty sure we all went inside when it got too cold.
But this (obviously) was different. Luckily, I went with a bunch of people who were familiar with camping festivals as a whole as well as Firefly in particular, and they definitely saved me from making tons of rookie mistakes. I had less time to worry and more time to just enjoy myself. Here’s my assessment (don’t I make everything sound like so much fun?!) of different aspects of the festival:
- Use the air mattress if you’ve got it. Just do it.
By the time we had unpacked two cars’ worth of stuff and set up three tents, I simply did not want to set up the air mattress I had packed. I’ll be fine, I thought to myself, I’ve got plenty of blankets and enough of those equate an air mattress, basically. …I was wrong. Sleeping on the ground for five days will take a toll on you physically. Save yourself even a little discomfort and invest in an air mattress.
- Learn the shower schedule and keep an eye out for when they’re cleaning bathrooms.
I feel like I should first say that I was so impressed by the grounds on which camping was held because there were always people going around cleaning, especially the porta-potties. My heart goes out to the people whose job it is, because I definitely don’t have a strong enough stomach to even think about the filth they deal with. That being said, it’s worth it to be a little diligent about when they’re cleaning so that you can get to a facility before it’s been worn.
As for showers, my group had a portable tent that came with a bag you filled up that then trickled out of a funnel. It does the job, but if there are hot showers you can pay for, invest your $5 in the memory of what running what feels like. Keep in mind that you are in the sun for four days and to not be covered in a layer of dirt for one of them is wonderful.
- Water and sunscreen and sunscreen and water.
Does this warrant a lengthy description? Take care of yourself and invest in a Camelback.
- You’re going to spend a fortune on ice.
Truly, I think we spent more money on ice than anything else. But it’s important, especially if you’re brought cold cuts or a grill and are planning on making burgers and hot dogs. (PS: Buy a portable grill but recognize you’re never going to want to eat hot dogs ever again).
- Don’t forget to bring napkins / plates / garbage bags / plastic-wear.
I definitely underestimated the amount of supplies we were going to need at the campsite, seemingly forgetting that this outdoor plaza would serve as my home. Pack accordingly.
- Pack actual food.
Sure, everyone loves Doritos, but after spending 10+ hours in the hot sun dancing and being active all day, you’re going to watch something that can actually provide you with sustenance. Think things that will hold you over for long periods of time before your next meal: nuts, Cliff Bars, fruit.
- My sister, one of the aforementioned seasoned festival vets, told me that compared to other experiences she’s had, security was quite lax. Never did I feel like there were people randomly searching campsites or interrogating people, though I did see them patrol often. The first night that I was there, a girl in the campsite next to me got way too drunk for her friends to take care of. When they called for help, the response time was notably fast.
Entertainment (that isn’t music):
- When you weren’t at a show, there was still plenty to do both on the grounds and at your campsite (if you were prepared for that). On the grounds themselves, there were plenty of vendors set up so you could shop, eat, and learn about various non-profits that had booths. Perhaps the greatest form of entertainment that my friends and I found was Silent Disco. Guests are given a pair of headphones that operate on two channels. There is a small stage and DJs are playing music broadcasted directly into your headphones, depending on which channel you’re on. It makes for an interesting experience as you’re listening to music very intimately while watching people experience perhaps the same song (which is fun) or a different song (which is even more fun)
I feel like the shows themselves deserve their own post so that I can fully flesh out the most important part of the festival, so check back for part two!