The weather was a little crazy this summer.
Excluding perhaps the West Coast, many summer music festivals have been subject to torrential downpours and dangerous storm weather that have led to the evacuation and cancellation of several festivals. While this spells bad news for ticket holders who were hoping to catch their favorite artists live, the necessary evacuations and cancellations are done not to frustrate us but to ensure our safety. It’s on us to make sure our safety is our number one priority, but it’s also the festival management’s responsibility to make sure all paying attendees are taken care of.
This summer alone, inclement weather has affected major festivals like Veld Music Festival in Toronto, Lollapalooza in Chicago and, most noticeably, TomorrowWorld in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. The Veld was cancelled completely due to severe storms in the area. The festival producers provided shelter for attendees who needed more time to organize rides home or who wanted to wait the storm out. Similarly, Lollapalooza briefly evacuated all festival-goers on Sunday due to storm warnings in the area. While I didn’t attend Veld, I can speak from experience that the evacuation from Lollapalooza was fairly painless and orderly. Guards at all of the gates knew what was going on and when asked by frustrated festival-goers they answered our questions politely.
Of all the festivals affected by weather, TomorrowWorld seems to be on a completely different level. Horror stories of people being stranded in the middle of the road and walking for hours without food or water have flooded social media; many attendees have taken to the Internet to start anti-TomorrowWorld Facebook groups. Others are considering seeking legal action against the organizers of TomorrowWorld. Perhaps one of the most memorable photos circulating online is of two girls sleeping on an empty pizza box on the muddy fields of Chattahoochee. It’s shocking to see the photos of exhausted fans walking miles for hours trying to find shelter in what can only be described as chaos.
Any event at Chattahoochee Hills should have contingency plans to ensure a smooth and safe evacuation for everyone. There should also be better communication between the event staff and the local security so everyone is on the same page at the same time. Posts from those stranded at TomorrowWorld suggest that a huge problem many people faced was a lack of organization and an understanding of what to do when Mother Nature came calling. The lack of acknowledgement of the situation from TomorrowWorld on their social platforms is also unnerving to see.
To point fingers and to place blame solely on the festival organizers though is unfair. We attendees are also partially to blame for our behavior when we’re told to leave the festival grounds for our safety. When we go to festivals, we accept the risk that the weather can interfere with outdoor activities and we should always try to make the best of any weather situation. Many of us often refuse to leave or try to rush the gates when staff members ask us to evacuate. I’ve found myself stand my ground because “I paid for this ticket and I’m going to get my money’s worth.” Yet, we sometimes forget that our safety transcends our happiness in that moment. When festival organizers tell us to leave the grounds they do so because safety teams advise them to do so, not because they want to. Our safety is always their first priority, even if that message may not be communicated clearly to attendees at all times.
It’s always a delicate situation when dealing with the weather. When a storm hits, it’s difficult to maintain a positive outlook and to make the best of the situation. On the one hand, event organizers want everyone to have the time of their lives. On the other hand, they also want to make sure everyone is healthy and safe which probably conflicts with many attendees’ agendas. Social media can be festival’s downfall if fans don’t see acknowledgement from organizers about chaotic situations.
With several unfortunate disasters there are always silver linings that emerge. While perusing the TomorrowWorld USA Facebook page I found a few examples of local residents offering their car and driving stranded festival-goers to wherever they needed to go. Several people posted about phones being returned and strangers looking out for lost individuals. As horrific as the weather was, it’s refreshing to see the community coming together to help one another and to attempt to keep spirits high. It’s times like these that show the strength of the community and reinforces the notion that love and respect for one another is still alive.