Every summer, at the end of May, there is a noticeable increase in energy in the middle of the country. Cars, trucks, buses, vans, trailers, and bikes are packed with gear, filled with gas, and driven towards Arkansas for the annual Wakarusa Music Festival. Since 2009, when the festival moved from its original site near Lawrence, KS, to its current home near Ozark, AR, tens of thousands of people have enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the Ozark National Forest and Mulberry Mountain, including me.
One of the best parts about Wakarusa is that it is actually more like camping than most other festivals. Sure, you are still camping next to your car, but Waka is less like a 4-day tailgate than a festival like Bonnaroo. At Wakarusa you can hike, fish, swim, play disc golf, canoe, or go rafting, and then come back to the carnival-like festival atmosphere. It’s one of the many things that sets Wakarusa apart from the rest of the festival pack, and one of the reasons why Waka will continue to succeed into the future. Wakarusa is a festival that feels like a vacation instead of a brutal endurance fest (although it does still get pretty hot out there).
This summer, I am getting a different view of the festival scene — from the inside. Last year, I volunteered at Bonnaroo for the first time, and met a lot of great people, and had an amazing festival. I thought working in the morning/afternoon would leave me exhausted for the night shows, but sitting around camp all day is gonna leave you just as exhausted, if not more. Staying sober, being productive, and making friends all day just made me fully appreciate the time I got to enjoy as a music fan, and I had a feeling of making a difference, doing something with my time instead of wasting away at camp melting into my camp chair all day. Plus, when my shift ended, I was in Centeroo, ready to watch music! This summer, I’m extending the experience to Wakarusa as well.
Working with Bearly Edible, the makers of the famous $1 grilled cheese sandwich, will be a totally different experience for me, and I am excited to see how everything works out. It won’t be that much different from my normal day-to-day life, where I make food for people all day, then get drunk and go watch a band play… it will just be multiplied by 1000 at Wakarusa! I think I would make a great blogger from this perspective, and if I won the tickets, I would give them to two of my friends, since my ticket is already being paid for with manual labor. I would even keep blogging about Bonnaroo the weekend after Wakarusa, since I’ll be going straight from Waka to the ROO with the same group.