The best thing about an outdoor music festival may not be the music.

After spending a weekend at Magnolia Fest Midwest, the first ever venture north from Florida for the Magnolia folks, I came to a different realization as to why I keep coming to Bluegrass festivals. The music is always better than expected. Young bands are thrilled to play on Bill Monroe’s stage and show their stuff to the audience and the bluegrass gods who surely must be watching. But there’s a whole different reason why these events are special, and music is just the start.

It’s more like a going to a big outdoor party, yet you don’t go home for three days. You come with friends, and you leave with more. You can walk up to Bela Fleck and say thanks. You can play frisbee with someone across the field who you’ve never met. You don’t have to drive at the end of the night and strangers give you hugs. A stage is a place where music begins and daylight at a campsite is a place where it finally ends – for a few hours anyway.

What’s the best thing about going to a weekend music festival? The music? Sure, that’s part of it, but after you’ve been to one you come to this realization:

The music is what convinces you to go to a festival, but it’s the utopia atmosphere that you walk away with, as you realize you can’t stop smiling. If all the evil despots of the world would just come to Bean Blossom just think how things could change. They would see Peter Rowan jump up and play with all the young bands as the hippie twirlers pranced through the grass under the moonlight. I’d nudge them to make sure they notice the smiles on the young faces of the Hot Buttered Rum Band realizing they are playing with their hero and a legend. I’d remind them how special this moment is and how agendas are suddenly irrelevant. Then on the way to an all night jam, I’d buy each one a mircrobrew or some ice cream. Their choice. Are you in?

You’ve heard from me. Now, tell me what you like about festivals

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