by Mercedes McGraw, contributor

Festivals can be an enjoyable event of live music, tasty food and exchanges amongst friends and strangers. A sea of people can bond over their favorite food stands, draft beer or the lead singer of the band. If not prepared, however, a lighthearted day can turn into an overwhelming experience. Every attendee should come prepared for possible weather changes, a buddy system for safety and a mode of communication.

Bring a buddy.
A group of friends and I recently attended the Sweetwater 420 Festival, held in April at Candler Park. With our trusty blanket, we were able to score a sweet spot close to the stage. Candler Park became a melting pot of young hipsters rocking out to the music, children playing catch with their parents and couples cuddled together on their blankets soaking up the sun. It seemed all of Atlanta was there to get a dose of the Sweetwater experience.

According to Sweetwater’s Facebook page, an estimated 3,256 people attended which made the simple task of getting a hamburger with cheese an epic battle between hunger, patience and the masses. Though my hunger was winning the battle as my stomach ate away at my patience, the crowds got the upper hand. Once in line, I waited more than an hour. Luckily, I had a friend to help fight the swarms of people. We acted as one and held hands while passing through the crowds. A buddy system in large crowds is ideal because two can maneuver safely through the masses and keep each other company while waiting in those long lines.


Use your smartphone wisely.
Even with the buddy system in such a large crowd, it’s easy to get separated from friends. After hamburgers, my friends and I went to the ice cream stand. I was overjoyed to have a refreshing popsicle on a hot day. As the strawberry flavor melted in my mouth, my heart froze. I noticed none of my friends were around. Abandoned at the ice cream stand, melting popsicle in hand, I searched for a familiar face. I wanted to call out their names but I knew they couldn’t hear my calls in the crowd. Panic-stricken, I could feel a mixture of angst and worry accumulate in my stomach. A lady walked past me on her cellphone. A light bulb lit up over my head.

Today, many smartphones offer applications to help with safety. If a threatening situation presents itself, a simple app can save the day. According to Top Ten Smartphone Safety Apps, the Silent Bodyguard Application works as a panic button that sends e-mails, text messages and social media messages with your location to anyone on your emergency contact list. I didn’t have any fancy applications, but I did have a fully charged phone. I turned my ringtone to the loudest capacity with the vibration mode on. When my friends returned my phone calls ten minutes later I was able to answer.


Dress for day and night.
As the day progressed, the temperature dropped along with the sunlight. According to What’s Typical in North and Central Georgia, spring season is categorized by variability from day to day. The air turned crisp as winds pierced my bare shoulders. Night’s cold weather fell upon us and suddenly my spring outfit didn’t seem so appropriate. I pulled my sweater from my bag. That quick weather check before I left my apartment came in handy. Now wrapped inside my force field of warmth, I could focus on the festival instead of the changing weather.

Without these three tips my experience could have been a real letdown. Thankfully, just a little preparation beforehand protected my experience. My buddy and I worked the crowd like a number on Broadway. My fully charged cellphone saved the day while my sweater saved me from the cold. I was able to enjoy the occasion with ease and relaxation and you can do the same.