5 tips to make the most of summer music festival season

Advance prep will help you sit back and enjoy the show

Nothing beats soaking up sweet Alberta sunshine and hearing your favourite artists at a music festival in a sea of like-minded souls. After all, it’s about the music, man – and maybe the occasional visit to the beer gardens.

Whether it’s a one-day show or four-day event like Big Valley Jamboree, pulling off a successful festival requires serious planning chops. The show has to sound great, yes, but events like Big Valley – which sees the nearby City of Camrose more than double its population of 18,500 during the festivities – need to factor in everything from food and water to first aid.

“The easy part is getting the marketing and the bands on stage but people really don’t see the infrastructure that goes in place to keep people safe,” says Mike Anderson (Marketing ’98, Business Administration - Management ’99), president of Trixstar Productions, which produces Big Valley and events such as K-Days’ concert series, Soundtrack Music Festival in Edmonton and this year’s Grey Cup party in Calgary.

“It’s all about the experience – being part of the music.”

“Big Valley Jamboree might be a four-day event, but we work on it for 360 days a year.”

Festival passes can cost in the hundreds of dollars, making them a significant investment of hard-earned entertainment cash. A little planning can make the difference between enjoying the show or missing out, so we tapped Anderson for tips to help you make the most of your experience.

1. Do your homework early

searching on a laptopIf there’s one key tip for festival goers, it’s to do your homework – and do it early, says Anderson, who produced his first music festival, Ookfest, which featured Nickelback as a headliner, in 1998 while still studying at NAIT.

“We encourage people to buy tickets early. It helps people get a better price on their experience but it also helps us as organizers plan a better experience because we know how many people are coming.”

2. Is it a well-run festival?

festival crowdDoing your homework also means researching the festival and its organizers to confident they’ll put on a decent show. Be wary of a disaster-in-the-making like the Pemberton Music Festival (cancelled without warning) or, heaven forbid, Fyre Festival (so bad the fail was immortalized in several documentaries).

Check the festival website to make sure it has information you need, such as vendors and frequently asked questions, and that tickets are easy to purchase on a professional platform like Ticketmaster, Eventbrite or Elevate Tickets.

“Those are all professional sites that will protect your money,” he says. “If it’s just going to a PayPal (account), if this event didn’t happen, there’s no way you’re getting your money back.”

Sometimes, though, it’s impossible to predict a Pemberton or Fyre, Anderson adds.

“There weren’t many warning signs until people actually showed up. Their social media was active, the website looked professional – nobody saw it coming.”

2. Plan for the weather. All the weather.

rain at an outdoor music festivalUnpredictable weather is a fact of life for any outdoor festival in Western Canada in the summer. If your event is spread over several days, you’ll need clothing for hot temperatures, cool evenings, rain and everything in between, Anderson says.

“Anything can happen. Be prepared for that.”

3. Make a checklist

making a checklistThere’s nothing worse than arriving at a festival site only to realize you’ve forgotten a crucial item like rain gear or your driver’s license. Even if you’re over 30, you’ll still need identification to get into the beer gardens so it doesn’t hurt to make a checklist, especially for out-of-town events.

4. Be ready to pounce for a good viewing spot

claiming a spot folk festivalOnce you’re at the festival, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the show. Getting in line early goes a long way to ensuring a decent view at many festival main stage spots. For side stages, Anderson recommends arriving before your favourite artist is set to perform, at the tail end of the preceding act.

“A lot of the crowd will leave or go to the bathroom, get a drink, go get something to eat. Those are you opportunities, between acts, to start moving up.”

5. Be respectful of your neighbours

listening to super groovy tunes at a music festivalNow that you have a great view, do your part to make sure everyone has a memorable experience. Some events have strict limits on the height of festival chairs so everyone can see. If you’re allowed to set up a tarp or blanket to mark your viewing space, don’t be a jerk and plop down the biggest one you can find.

“We encourage people to stand up [at Big Valley], dance, have a good time. It’s all about the experience – being part of the music, being part of the event and just enjoying it,” Anderson says. “But at the same time, respect your surroundings, respect the people around you, make sure you’re not affecting them and have a good time.”

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