If you are an Austinite, or Austin-curious, you know that we are heading into festival season. It is a wonderous and beautiful period of time when people travel far and wide to attend SXSW (and all of its various incarnations), ACL, comedy festivals, comic festivals, and, a first this year, Texas VegFest. We work hard and play harder in Austin and festivals can be a full-contact sport. One bad sun burn can put you on the sidelines and, before you know it, you’ve missed Blitzen Trapper’s whole set. Dang.
While there are tons of festival guides out there, I find that there are a few gaps in the practical application arena. Do I want free beer? Of course I do. Do I want 24/7 access to tacos? Indubitably! Do I need to bring bottled water? Well, yes and no. Here are some tips to keep you ready for action during festival season.
This should be a no brainer, but people seem to leave these festivals with peeling noses. Maybe it’s a right of passage? I don’t know, but I don’t want to be a part of that clique whatever it is. VegNews wrote an informative article about vegan sunscreen option; my personal favorite is Alba Botanica’s aloe vanilla mineral sunblock.
Bring an Umbrella or Parka
When I was 18, my grandmother bought me a plain, black umbrella for Christmas. I thought that it was the most thoughtless gift I had ever received. Until I got to UT and downpours would start as I was walking out of class. I had to walk all over campus in the rain and muck. That umbrella was my best friend. (Freshman year was tough, y’all.) I know that Texas is known for its big, blue skies, but it does sometimes rain here too. And that rain usually comes in the spring to encourage our lovely wildflowers to blossom, which is, coincidentally, when all of the festivals happen. Just be prepared.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Last year, I happened to be on Second street at Jo’s and saw several women wearing sky-high platform heels. I will not hate on these ladies ‘cause sisters were workin’ it, but it didn’t seem like the most practical choice for a festival setting. Consider wearing a pair of flats or other supportive shoe. I hear that Top Siders are making a comeback. I just bought this cute pair of vegan ones that I think will look nifty with a skirt.
Wear Loose, Comfortable Clothes
I don’t really need to elaborate on this right? We’re all adults? No one’s gonna wear hot pants and a tube top at the same time? Okay. Moving on.
Bring a Water Bottle
I like Austin water, but I’ve been told that it tastes weird. Whatever. It does the job of hydration, which is something you should strive for during your festival run. I like these foldable water bottles by Vapur. They hold a good amount of water, have a small carabiner you can hook onto your belt loop, and can fit into your purse or pocket when not in use. They’re also good for jogging or running, so you can use them year-round. Or, you can make it look like you go jogging or running if that’s your bag.
Note: Most outdoor festivals will let you bring water in water bottles, but no other beverages. You’ll have to buy those inside from vendors. Most bars will have a water station or free water behind the bar. Just ask.
There will be food everywhere, but unless you’re at Texas VegFest, it might not be vegan. I know, right?! Bring your own snacks just in case. Maybe bring something of the carb/protein/fat variety to give you some calories and satiate you for a while. When you’re ready to eat a full meal, you can check out one of the restaurants featured on Vegan Lazy Smurf’s extensive list.
Bring a Swimsuit
If the weather lets up, you should be ready to jump into one of the local swimming holes. If you can swing it, just wear your suit as part of your normal outfit. This is a bit easier for the ladies if you wear a two-piece.
See those kids on stage? They’re wearing earplugs. Why aren’t you?
The legal, over-the-counter kind. If you’re old like me, you’ll need an analgesic of some sort. Maybe one for headaches and one for sore muscles. I like Tiger Balm for sore muscles and bug bites. If you forgot your sunscreen because you did not heed the tip above, you’ll need some aloe or balm. If you like to breathe, you’ll need some anti-histamines. The allergens in Austin do not eff around. For real.
Bring a Drink Koozie
You’re probably going to meet a lot of people while you’re here. You’re also probably going to encounter a lot of free drinks. Keep your hand dry while making connections. Also, Lonestar beer is plentiful, cheap, and vegan. If you’re willing to pay a little more, Shiner is vegan as well except for the Hefeweizen, which contains honey.
Resist Head-to-Toe Western Wear
I know, I know. You’re in Texas. When will you ever have a chance to wear your belt buckle, vegan Big Buddha cowgirl boots and felt-like hat? You can do it, but we locals will endlessly mock you behind your back. Choose one and stick with it. If you’re wearing a cowgirl hat remember: felt in the winter and straw in the summer or whenever it’s bloody hot outside.
Go to the day shows and after parties
We all know about the headliners, but don’t dismiss the day shows. They are plentiful and fun. My friend Feminist Music Geek is putting on this showcase at vegan bar Cheer Up Charlie’s and it’s sure to be a jolly time: Get Off the Internet! Feminist & Queer SXSW Showcase.
So, there you have it. I packed half of your bag for you. Now all you need are some undies and a toothbrush and you’re good to go. Good luck out there! Here’s hoping that you emerge from whichever festival you attend with some extra tacos for the plane trip home.