Surviving Firefly: How to keep cool at the music festival

DOVER — On the first day of the Firefly Music Festival, people arrive crisp, energized and ready to have a great time.

But by Saturday and Sunday the alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation and heat can often make a combination that will hamstring even the most enthusiastic partiers.

As the Kent County Department of Public Safety, which has provided Advanced Life Support (ALS) services at Firefly all six years, warns the festival is a “marathon not a sprint.”

Attendees ought to pace themselves accordingly.

Ben Caprielli and his wife Cassie have been coming to Dover for Firefly from New York City for five years in a row. Now festival-hardened veterans, they’ve built a sort of survival kit over the years that they now bring to every festival.

Two festival goers go into a medical tent at Firefly in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery )

“First of all, we have to have all sorts of sunblocks. If you get burnt on the first day, you never really recover and the whole festival can be miserable,” said Mrs. Caprielli.

“We have regular sun tan lotion, but we also have sunblock lip balm — chapped, sunburnt lips are horrible. It’s easy to forget to reapply sunscreen, especially if you’ve had a couple drinks and you’re having a good time, so I have an alarm set on my phone that reminds me every two hours.

“Also, we both wear our hats and sunglasses the entire time.”

Naturally, water is a must, they say. Although Mr. Caprielli carries around a backpack, he tries to keep it light.

“We carried around water bottles the first year, but it got annoying. Now we just share the three liter hydration backpack on Cassie’s back,” said Mr. Caprielli. “They sell them here, but we got ours on Amazon for around $15.”

The hydration backpack vendor on the Firefly grounds is near the Lawn Stage. The company called Vibedration sells two liter models for $25 and three liter models for $50 in a variety of styles. Patrons are able to refill whatever receptacles the have at the several complimentary refilling stations throughout The Woodlands.

“We carry around extra absorbent rags too — we roll them up, wet them with cold water at the refilling stations and put them around our necks,” said Mr. Carpielli. “They don’t stay cold for long, but you’d be surprised by how quickly they bring your body temp down.”

Emily Thornton from Brooklyn NY fills up her water pouch at Firefly on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Attached to their backpack survival kit are two blankets.

“Sometimes sitting in the grass exposes you to bugs and stuff and it can get itchy in the grass, so blankets are great,” said Mrs. Caprielli. “It’s usually hot during the daytime, but in some of the evenings it can actually get cold, so an extra blanket comes in handy.”

They also stress the importance of dressing light and being particular about footwear. Sandals and flip-flops may seem like the best options because they’re light, but that’s not always the case, they said. Both wear lightweight boots that are well worn-in. Their feet sweat a bit, but it’s a tradeoff worth making, they claimed.

“We both went with sandals the first year, but because of all the walking, we got crazy blisters by the end of the festival — each step hurt,” said Mr. Caprielli. “Plus, your feet start to drag a bit by Sunday cause you’re tired and the ground is sort of uneven in a lot of spots. It’s a good way to stub your toe or trip. Boots are really the way to go in my opinion.”

Another essential item: the bandanna. Often, the dirt roads throughout the festival grounds can get dry — if a gust of wind comes through, it can blow dust into one’s face.

“This year really hasn’t been bad, but if it’s a little dusty and windy, having a bandanna tied over your face is really worth it,” said Mr. Caprielli. “It’s sucks to be sweaty and hot and then get a mouthful of dust.”

Back at their campsite they have dozens of other essentials like a first aid kit, Advil and baby powder.

“I don’t want to be too graphic, but it only took me the first year to find out that baby powder is a must,” said Mr. Caprielli. “You’re really going to want to apply it generously to any areas that might chafe from a lot of sweating and walking — if you know what I mean.

“I know we look like a couple of nerds with our backpacks and baby powder, but you should see how we compare to the people who showed up completely unprepared by Sunday night — they’re practically crawling out of here. It probably takes them a week to recover.”

The Kent County Department of Public Safety released the same list of “tips and tricks” as they did last year — the Caprielli’s already follow most of them, right down to the nether region powdering. They include:

• Beer is not water. You must drink water with your beer (or favorite alcoholic beverage).

• Wear shoes you have worn before that will not give you blisters. Many people are surprised at how far they have to walk. This is a very large venue. We give out literally hundreds, maybe thousands of bandaids every weekend.

• Guys — bring powder.

• Take a break now and then and chill. Don’t overdo it. Every year we transport many people out because they didn’t pace themselves.

• Take care of your friends — keep an eye on your buddies. If a friend is having trouble, get help. We don’t judge.

• Bring sunscreen (non-aerosol), pack a hat and wear cool clothing.

The department maintains a presence on site from Wednesday night until Monday morning and urge festival-goers to “flag them down” if they need help. There is a “Fan Care Center” at the base of the bridge on the east side of Del. 1, and there is an aid tent set up in every section of the festival — the tents are white with a red cross. The paramedic teams are also patrolling each section of The Woodlands on ATVs and gold carts.

A survey of Public Safety employees on Saturday revealed that the most common complaint they address throughout the four-day festival is heat exhaustion. Patrons often have a bit too much to drink, don’t stay hydrated enough and fall ill.

Often, cases can be remedied by simply having the person sit in the air conditioned medical tent for a half hour or so, drink some water and catch their breath, staff said. In extreme cases though, a person may need to be evacuated.

A feature Red Frog Events, the production company responsible for Firefly, introduced this year to help with the heat and general hygiene are the “Spruce Up Stations.”

For $79, music fans can get a pass that enables them to use private showers and air conditioned bathrooms and a lounge for the duration of the festival.
Kelly Faust from Milford bought one of these passes this year and said it was “worth every penny.”

“Right around 4 p.m. is when it gets hottest; it’s so refreshing to just go in there and take a quick rinse and cool off. It’s like getting a second wind,” she said as she left a Spruce Up Station on Saturday afternoon.

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