Last week I had the immense joy of attending Firefly Music Festival with one of my other IBD friends. I have wanted to attend a large music festival for a quite some time, but between my IBD and MS, I thought that enjoying loud music in sweltering heat just wasn’t in the cards.
But fret not It’s possible, and I’m happy to share what I learned so you can see that.
Most music festivals have partnered with non-profits that make each festival ADA accessible. A big part of that means ADA campsites. At many festivals, the general camping area is about a mile from the festival entrance, which means a minimum of two miles a day just getting to and from the festival.
I’m exhausted just typing that, because on average you can walk about 10 miles a day once at the festival. ADA camping is gold for people with chronic illness because it’s located significantly closer to the front gate. For us, it was probably about an eighth of a mile. ADA camping also has its own section of toilets for its campsites, which are closer and have fewer people using them. Additionally, in our experience ADA camping was a little calmer in the evenings so we didn’t have to worry about crazy loud partying going on right next to us.
ADA on-site access
While ADA camping was amazing, the real reason that the festival was possible for me was because of the ADA offerings in the festival itself.
- There were a slew of shuttles being offered for ADA clients throughout the festival. If needed, the shuttle would pick you up at the ADA campsite and take you anywhere you needed to go throughout the festival. Some of the stages were a hike from our campsite, so on the days where just getting there would have wiped me out, we took the shuttle to the most distant stage and worked our way back.
- Each major stage had a special section for ADA clients. This was helpful because it also had chairs, an elevated platform, and in some cases even some shade.
ADA Porta Potties
- In each ADA seating section there was a dedicated ADA porta potty, which was probably the best part about having ADA access on-site. Most of the time, I just used the porta potties for the general public but at really popular shows, the lines were massive. When that happened, I just went to the ADA section, immediately used the bathroom there and then returned to enjoying the music.
Tips for attending a music festival
Here are some of the best tips that I received that made my festival experience possible!
Email the ADA contact right away
- As soon as you buy your festival ticket, contact the ADA person and get a phone number for use at the festival.
Make a schedule for the weekend
- It helps to be organized for the three to four days you’ll be there. Prioritize the acts you want to see because by day two or three you’re already starting to feel the exhaustion. You want to make sure you see who is important to you and maybe try to nap in your down time.
- Bring 8 million wet wipes. After a half day using the “toilet paper” provided in the porta potties, I was officially hurting. Pack wet wipes with you everywhere you go and add some hand sanitizer in there too. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll use them.
Pack a backpack
- I would highly recommend a backpack with a water bladder in it. The chance of dehydration is massive at these things, and even healthy people find themselves in a pickle sometimes. I drank about three liters of water each day and it was really easy to consume that much because I had it readily accessible. Plus you’ll want to make sure you have essentials like suntan lotion, maybe a small snack, a place to put your phone and any other small thing you need. But mostly, you need the water!
Pack a canopy
- Having a canopy at your campsite is a must. There was little to no shade available inside the festival and at the campsites. Some of the only shade we saw during the weekend was under the canopy we brought. In fact, sometimes we even napped under it because it was too hot in the tents.
- Since the festival strictly uses porta potties, I’d recommend making sure to have a headlamp because trying to use your phone for light at night is almost impossible. Plus you can use it on the walk when you have to get up in the middle of the night.
Jackie Zimmerman is a multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and executive director of Girls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has blogged her IBD journey at Blood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page. In her free time (what free time?!) she spends time with her two rescue pups and plays roller derby. She’s online @JackieZimm.