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Becky Caldwell is the executive director of the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia. Her career has spanned 22 years and numerous festivals throughout the country, including the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Chicago Improv Festival, and Spontaneous Combustion Improv Festivals in Atlanta and Detroit.
I have a confession to make—I am a festival junkie.
Keep your fancy plush seats and climate control. I’ll take a sweaty walk down a neighborhood street any day, as long as it’s lined with vendors and edged with entertainment.
I may be a foodie, but I still I prefer to eat my food off a stick and a paper plate than a fancy restaurant.
Beer belongs in a plastic cup, and the best dancing happens on the grass. These are facts which I have no interest in arguing.
I first fell in love with festivals when I was an intern at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. (Fancy, right?) In my department was a woman whose job was to produce the many festivals that happened there. This blew my young mind. You mean to tell me someone gets paid to create the most fun times ever? How is this even real?
I was hooked and vowed that one day, the person who got paid to create the most fun times ever would be me.
Now, after a 15-year career spent producing indoor events, I am back outside! Fire up that giant copper kettle and pour in the corn, because this girl loves a good street party!
My role as executive director of the Virginia Highlands Festival has made me privy to a deep, dark secret, though. I’m gonna need you to hang on for this one. Some people don’t know how to have fun at an outdoor festival.
They’re too hot, their feet hurt, the food’s expensive, the band is too loud, and on and on…
With so many festivals around here, it breaks my heart that someone out there can’t access the joy and fun of their local festival. Thankfully, I’ve created this quick guide to help:
Five Tips for Enjoying your Local Festival
1. Dress for the weather and walking. Don’t worry about looking cute, because everyone has the same trickle of sweat running down the small of their back. Just be comfortable!
2. Know that you will spend more on food and drinks at a festival than you probably did for a week’s worth of groceries. Embrace this fact, and enjoy your $10 burger.
3. Leave your diet at home. You know who eats a salad at a festival? No one! It’s time for funnel cake and BBQ—in that order. Besides, you’ll probably walk off all those calories anyway.