We have been to so many wonderful festivals that almost every one is a favorite for its own special reason. To sum it up for me, LEAF is the first festival I took my parents to. It can be both wildly fun and sweetly wholesome all at the same time! It is in a beautiful location, has a diverse lineup, nice facilities, and a family friendly vibe. Here are some things that I think attendees will find helpful:
Arrival & parking.
For starters, unless you have purchased a vehicle parking permit or RV site, all of the camping is walk-in. If you are a LEAF member, you get to arrive on Thursday, which is when a lot of the most coveted campsites are taken. General admission begins on Friday. You can pull your car into a couple of gates, or along the road, to unpack for about 10 minutes. Then you will move your vehicle to the Gate 6 parking lot for the weekend. The parking fee is $10. Be prepared, the parking lot belongs to a gravel quarry and is a very long and very dusty road. There are free shuttles that run all the time, so you shouldn't have to walk the entire distance back to the festival grounds. But make sure you have some water and maybe even a bandana to protect your face from the dust. Your car will be gray by Sunday! For good measure, read this: http://www.theleaf.org/tickets/?mgi_70=4642/festival-arrival
Choosing a campsite. The majority of campers set up at either end of the grounds, at Gates 1-3, or Gate 5. The areas from Gate 1 to 3 are flat and have trees around much of the perimeter. The "Global Tent Village" is on a large play field, with "Puppetry Village" and "Family Camping" nearby. Gate 3 gives you access to "Dancin' Tent" camping. This is the original home of Dancin' Dave's Festival Camping village as well as a cadre of contra dancers, but of course all are welcome. This is also where camping along the perimeter of the lake begins. It is lovely to have your tent set up along the lake, but be aware, it is a narrow area with a footpath along the water's edge. So your 8-man tee-pee will not fit there! The benefits to camping at this end of the festival include access to indoor washroom facilities, including restrooms in Eden Hall and restrooms and showers in the bathhouse next to Birch Lodge and behind Brookside.
Most of the other campers fill in at Eden Field, located at Gate 5. This is also now where Dancin' Dave's primary camp is located. This is a big, open, rolling field with a few lakeside sites and groupings of trees here and there. If you're camping with a large group, this is the easiest place to score real estate for your 5 tents, 2 canopies and solar shower. There is a horseshoe drop-off area where you can pull in and unload. There is also a general store that sells beer and ice. There are ample port-a-potties and hand-washing stations that are cleaned regularly, and plenty of wide open space for Frisbee and kite-flying. There are trees, but not many wooded areas at this festival, so although you may luck out and find a spot to hang your hammock, don't count on that being your primary accommodation for the weekend.
Facilities. As mentioned, there are restrooms in Eden Hall. There are also restrooms and showers in the bathhouse next to Birch Lodge, as well as the back side of Brookside. During peak hours, be prepared to wait, as there is usually a line. Especially for the ladies. There are also sinks on the outside of Eden Hall where you can fill up your own water containers. Very handy, but the water is strong of chlorine. And of course, there are port-a-potties a-plenty. So whenever you need one, there's a loo for you!
Weather. Be prepared for it to be really hot. And really cold. And also wet. And windy, don't forget about windy! Seriously though, it's in the mountains. So you may go from sweating in your tank top, shorts and sandals during the day, to shivering in your sleeping bag at night wishing you brought extra socks. It really can change that much in 12 hours. Layers are key. It may seem like a lot, especially since you have to carry everything in, but I never attend a festival without a raincoat and boots. Or at the very least a pocket-poncho in case of emergencies. In the event of severe weather, there are several buildings on the property where you can take shelter.
Food and drink. There are so many delicious options when it comes to eating at LEAF.
Vendors provide a wide variety of fares: pizza, bbq, fried chicken, veggie things, pesto quesadillas, spicy peanut noodle bowls, and a whole lot of stuff in between. There is also an excellent meal plan that provides 3 meals a day served in Eden Hall. You can purchase a Culinary Passport in advance and get 5 meals for $50, or if you want to keep your options open, you can also eat there and just pay by weight. Or, you can rent a kitchen with your tent from Dancin' Dave's. We set up everything you need to cook right at your own campsite. (Food and chef not provided!) There are plenty of vendors selling lemonade, smoothies, kombucha and coffee. You can purchase alcoholic beverages on the porch at Eden Hall, next to the main music venue at Lakeside, at the Jam Tavern, or at the General Store at the horseshoe at Gate 5. Outside alcohol is not permitted.
Music & entertainment. This festival has the most eclectic variety of music of any of the festivals we attend. From Tuvan throat singing, to high-energy hip-hop, to Appalachian mountain music, and everything you can imagine in between. This is the festival I attend with my ears wide open, prepared to fall in love with something completely new that I've never heard before. The main stage, Lakeside, is a large tent with a wooden dance floor up front surrounded by artisan vendors with the lake as a backdrop. You can also find more intimate stages at the Barn and Jam Tavern tent. The Sunshine stage hosts family friendly shows of all sorts. Eden Hall is where you can sit and listen to some morning piano while enjoying your coffee, catch the amazing poetry slam in the evening (arrive early, this event is always standing room only!), or dance until the wee hours. If you brought your dancing shoes (you should always bring your dancing shoes), Brookside is the place to be! From swing, to salsa, to contra all night long. It's where to go if you want to cut the rug. Still awake after the stages close down? Head up the mountain to the drum circle and keep the party going until the sun comes up. There really is something for everybody!
Art! The vendors at this event are juried, meaning that they are hand-selected from a pool of extremely talented artists vying for a coveted spot at this magical affair. Everything for sale is made by an artist, usually the smiling face behind the table at their booth. So come with your holiday shopping list, because you will find beautiful wares of all sorts. A hand-thrown mug for dad, a one-of-a-kind scarf for mom, a cute animal hat for the baby, and a delightfully deranged framed squirrel skull decorated with rhinestones and butterfly wings for your weird brother. There are items from Tibet, Haiti, and Guatemala. There are henna artists and hula-hoop makers. There is even a "Sprouts" vending area where your little ones can sell their very own handmade treasures.
Other fun stuff. There are so many activities at this festival in addition to music! This is why it is one of my favorites, as well as my parent's. There is something for everybody. There are parades and puppet shows. You can rent canoes and paddle around the lake, or take a salsa dancing workshop. Go on a wild edibles hike, splash in the lake at the beach or take a trip down the zipline into the water! Get refreshed at Dr. Bronner's Magic Foam Experience or stretch out with some yoga. And bring your bling! This festival is all about participation. So don those fairy wings and sequined sun glasses! YOU are a big part of what makes this festival so special!
There is a festival map located at the bottom of this page: http://www.theleaf.org/tickets/
Go ahead and read their "Festival 101" page, as it has some useful information as well. LEAF is a non-smoking event. There are a few designated areas where you can smoke cigarettes, but as a non-smoker, it is awesome to never have to worry about second-hand smoke while watching music!
Of course, if you reserve a campsite
with Dancin' Dave's, you don't have to go through a lot of the aforementioned trouble of selecting a spot or hauling your tent!
What are your favorite things about LEAF? Do you have any helpful tips to add? I'd love to hear from you!