Festivals like Rolling Loud, Ultra and Tortuga rock South Florida every year, making it onto many students’ bucket lists. Even before the pandemic upped the stakes, going to one of these events came with some risks. We’d be hyprocrites if we told you not to go—we’re just saying that as you shop for your Ultra ‘fits, consider these tips for staying safe at festivals.
For those who didn’t see it all over social media and the news, rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in November 2021 resulted in 10 tragic deaths and over 300 lawsuits. The deaths were ruled as accidental, as the Houston Medical Examiner’s office said that they were caused by compression asphyxia within the crowd of 50,000 people who attended. Whether the artist, security, staff or crowd was at fault, that horror taught us, among other things, that everyone should know how to stay safe while attending these events.
1) Use Festival Resources
Lots of music festivals have resource pages on their website. For example, Rolling Loud has a “Help” page with icons such as “Get Ready,” “Health and Safety” and “FAQ.” By actually reading it—unlike most people—you’ll know what’s allowed in the festival and what isn’t, and how accessible certain things like restrooms and water stations are.
You should also familiarize yourself with a map or photo of the event layout so that when you’re potentially under the influence, you won’t be totally clueless. Send it to everyone you’re going with, while you’re at it.
Finding other people to ask—whether friends or via social media posts— who have attended the music festival before, especially if it’s your first time in that space, is invaluable.
2) Plan Ahead
Half the fun of festivals is planning out your day. Most will have a handful of stages with multiple artists all performing at once so that people can pick their favorite. There’s always something going on, and even though it might seem fun to just wander around, having a set plan can help make sure you don’t get lost or stranded in the crowds.
Planning applies to supplies, too. Packing food, water and personal hygiene products can help make a festival experience more enjoyable. “We bought clear backpacks because that’s a requirement for music festivals,” said University of Miami Sophomore Ari Shedlock when discussing her preparation for Rolling Loud 2021. “We brought lots of snacks. I remember I brought a lot of period products for my friends… if I went to another festival, I would buy a backpack water pack because that is a good thing to have.”
3) Stick Together
It’s extremely important to stay with the people you know or came with at festivals, because once you get separated a dead cell phone or a drunk friend can quickly turn into a crisis. And that’s not to mention the possibility of facing an actual large-scale emergency.
UM sophomore Jillian DiMonda, who attended the Governor’s Ball NYC in 2019, a music festival that usually hosts about 150,000 people, said she and her friends experienced an evacuation at the Ball due to severe weather.“
They rushed everyone through to the bridge where cars were still on the bridge, causing puddles to also drench the pedestrians,” she said. “There was literally no dry place. My brother clenched my phone in his hand because it was the driest place. It was dark, raining, loud and no directions were given. It was very scary.”
4) Be Aware
Festivals can get chaotic fast, (ahem, Astroworld) and knowing who and what’s around you can help keep you safe in the event of an emergency.
“Make sure everyone around you is okay, because if they’re not, you’re going to be the next one who is not okay,” said Marcus Stevens, a junior at UM. “Bad mosh pits function like a line of dominos, where the effect flows sequentially.”
A mosh pit is “an area in front of a stage where very physical and rough dancing takes place.” Mosh pits occur at any kind of concert or festival with a large crowd, as the crowd often surges towards the front of the stage, in order to get a better view of the artist performing.
It’s crucial to know your physical limitations, as well. Mosh pits can suck you in, and it can become extremely difficult to escape once everyone begins to surge forward. If you feel unsure, get out before things get dangerous.
5) Know Exactly What You Consume
“At large music festivals, it can be easy to make careless decisions without thinking of the consequences,” said Rohan Dureja, a peer educator at the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education at University of Miami. “When you are drunk or high, you might decide to start a fight or run off on your own. It is an unknown environment where there is a lot of stimulation, so your body may react in a negative way when under the influence.”
If you do decide to go for these substances, never take anything randomly given to you. You just don’t know what it could do. The Sandler Center has a saying: “When in doubt, throw it out.” If you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing or what’s in something that someone has given you, do not take or drink it. Drugs or unknown substances can be put in alcoholic beverages, and drugs, including the toxic and deadly chemical Fentanyl, are becoming more prominent.
If you think that you’ve been given something without your consent or start to feel like something is wrong, find a medical center at the event or contact emergency services. It’s better to be safe than sorry.“
I would definitely recommend drinking a lot of water and eating beforehand,” Dureja said. “I know it sounds very simple, but it can prevent so many issues and allow you to enjoy the music festival while still being safe.”