ITHACA, NY – Grassroots, now in its 26th year, is once again upon us. People from all over the Finger Lakes region and well beyond will be crowding into Trumansburg Fairgrounds to enjoy four days of music and dance.

This year’s lineup features over 75 performers, from festival founders Donna the Buffalo, to nationally-known artists like Indigo Girls and Silversun Pickups, to local favorites like Jimkata, Gunpoets and Big Mean Sound Machine.

Navigating this massive event can be tricky. If you’re looking for the basics, the Grassroots website has a fairly comprehensive FAQ, as well as sections on parking and camping.

The basics will only get you so far, however. Here are a few extra tips to help you make the most of your experience:

1 – Plan ahead

With over 75 acts across four performance locations and four days, it’s easy to miss something. Making a plan may seen contrary to the freewheeling spirit of Grassroots, but you don’t want to get to day three of the festival wondering, “When are The Horse Flies playing?” only to realize that they played yesterday while you were shaking it in the Dance Tent.

The Grassroots website has a handy schedule that you can print out, or you can save it on your phone. Figure out your “must-see” acts ahead of time, so you’re not left scrambling around while you should be rocking out.

2 – Pack the essentials

You don’t want to lug around a bunch of loose items in your hands or risk things getting bounced out of your pockets. A comfortable backpack of fanny pack will prove useful to hold essentials like your cell phone and supplies like water, snacks, sunscreen and maybe even band-aids.

Speaking of cell phones, Renovus provides a cell phone charging station, so don’t neglect to bring your charger.

3 – Dress for the weather — all the weather

It’s probably going to be hot during the day, but it may get substantially cooler during the night. There’s a good chance of rain on Thursday and Friday. If you’ve ever dressed for a summer concert only to have to slog through a couple hours of dreary weather, you know it can be a real buzzkill.

Dress for warm weather, but pack some layers for when it gets cooler. You may want to bring an umbrella or at least clothes that don’t soak through. And remember, rain in an open field means mud, so be sure to wear footwear that can handle wet ground and won’t get pulled off into the mud.

4 – Protect your feet

On a similar note, remember that you’re going to be in a crowd full of people dancing and grooving. Toes are likely to be stepped on, so close-toed shoes may be a safer choice than flip-flops.

Also, remember that the Trumansburg Fairgrounds also host other events, including a demolition derby. While the fairgrounds are cleaned before the event, there’s no guarantee that a few stray sharp objects aren’t left behind — or dropped by attendees during the festival — waiting to cut unprotected feet.

5 – Mass transit is your friend

The act of parking is not fun. Paying for parking make it even less so.

There’s a free offsite parking area about a mile from the Festival site, with free, air-conditioned shuttle buses running around the clock from the front gate of the fairgrounds to the parking area. They can even accommodate any extra cargo such as coolers, tens or strollers.

Plus, it’s a great way to keep the fun going and swap stories with fellow festival-goers.

There are a few locations closer to the site that you can park at for a fee. You can also park along some county roads, but festival organizers urge extreme caution, as Tompkins sheriff’s won’t hesitate to tow an illegally parked car. You can find more parking information at the Festival’s website.

6 – Don’t drive under the influence

We shouldn’t need to tell you that getting behind the wheel while drunk or otherwise impaired is a dangerous and selfish idea.

But if you need a little extra dissuasion, you can be sure that law enforcement will be on the lookout for people who are doing just that.

7 – Don’t overdo it

Four days on your feet is a long time, especially if you’re like a Voice reporter and spend a good portion of your day sitting at a computer. There’s no shame in taking a nap, or even just sitting down for a break.

If you need a pick-me up, you can swing by the Grassroots Healing Arts tent for a meditation session or some body work.

Special thanks to Darcie Black, Francisco Ruben Arce and Rene Davis for providing these helpful tips.

(Featured photo by Jeff Lower.)

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.