The Fest is a punk rock music festival that takes place in Gainesville, Florida, every year. The festival was first held in 2002 and has been going strong since then. The performances take place at various bars and concert halls in the Downtown Gainesville area. The main stage is set up in Bo Diddley Plaza.
Over 300 musical acts are featured every year, along with numerous comedians and professional wrestlers who entertain the crowds. It was started as a two-day event but has now expanded to three days. In 2013, The Fest celebrated its 12th anniversary, and the annual "Big Pre-Fest in Little Ybor" was organized as part of the festivities in Ybor City.
Although the event features primarily punk music, a number of indie rock, metal, ska, and hardcore punk musicians and bands also perform. United Nations, Planes Mistaken For Stars, The City on Film, Off With Their Heads, The Jazz June, Teenage Bottlerocket, Screaming Females, and Mobina Galore are some of the artists who have performed at The Fest in the past. In addition to the official lineup, several unofficial house shows are part of the festival every year.
Passes can be purchased online, but wristbands will not be mailed to you directly. All attendees will need to register at the registration HQ with a valid photo ID in order to pick up wristbands. You have the option of buying three-day passes or purchasing tickets to individual shows.
It’s a good idea to purchase your passes early since a tiered pricing method is followed. Once a particular tier is sold out, the next tier will become available. Prices for the three day-passes range from $150 to $190. You can find more information on tickets and pricing on The Fest website.
You can reach Gainesville via I-10, I-75, OR I-95. All festival attendees will first need to head to the Holiday Inn University Center to check-in and pick up wristbands. It is located on University Avenue, and detailed directions are provided on the festival website. Be sure to check the registration hours before heading there.
Paid street parking will be available close to the venue. There are also several garages in the area where paid parking is available, but be sure to note the size of your camping setup as these may have limitations. Downtown Gainesville can get pretty crowded on the days of the event. So it’s a good idea to park your rig at your campsite and use other modes of transportation.
Busses operated by the Gainesville Regional Transit System serve the downtown area. The Rosa Parks Downtown Station is less than a mile away from Bo Diddley Plaza and walking distance from the other venues. You can also get around using a taxi or a ride-hailing service.
The Fest does not offer any onsite camping options. Your best bet is to book a spot at one of the RV parks nearby in advance.
The Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is an excellent option since it is less than 15 miles away from the downtown area. Here you’ll have the chance to observe many different types of wildlife and enjoy activities like biking and horseback riding. There are a couple of other well-equipped options closer to the venue, as well.
The downtown area is relatively small, and most of the venues are within walking distance of each other. All the places where the performances take place are ADA compliant, but some do not have raised viewing platforms for patrons with disabilities. Wheelchairs and other mobility devices are not available for rent.
You can’t go wrong with shorts and a t-shirt or a sundress for the daytime, although you may need a lightweight jacket for the evenings. Official festival t-shirts and other merchandise are available for sale on the website. You can purchase these in advance and wear them to show your support of The Fest.
Sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, and sunglasses are day bag essentials. Chairs and blankets are not allowed into the venues. Make a list of all the camping gear you will need and tick it off while preparing for your trip. Keep in mind that you may be maneuvering between several locations near one another downtown, so try to keep your items mobile. You may want to pack a few games to keep the family entertained at your campsite.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Whether you’re attending the indoor or outdoor concerts, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen. Alcohol will be available for purchase at the venues, but drinking adult beverages on the streets is not allowed. You will need to be over the age of 21 and have a valid ID to purchase alcohol.
Outside food is allowed in Bo Diddley Plaza, so it's a good idea to pack a few snacks and sandwiches and take them with you to the event. This way, you can keep hunger pangs at bay and save money. Use the stove in your RV to prepare meals or light a campfire if you have the time. Stock your fridge with produce and fuel up before starting on your trip.
Downtown Gainesville is filled with top-rated restaurants, quaint cafes, and family-owned bakeries. Some of the must-try dishes are the Cuban sandwiches, bean bowls, and vegan ice cream. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more exotic, you can try different cuisines like Japanese and Spanish. There are also a number of bars and breweries where you can grab a drink.
A wide range of food and drink options will be available for purchase at the various venues downtown during The Fest. There will be vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options for patrons with dietary restrictions or preferences. Once you check-in, you’ll receive an official guidebook, which will have information on all the food options available.
All bags will be searched by security personnel at the entrances. A list of allowed and prohibited items is mentioned on the festival website. Weapons of any kind, drugs, and outside alcohol will not be permitted into the venues. Forgetting the guidelines for The Fest may mean that you are asked to leave without a refund.
Weather in the area is typically quite pleasant in the fall. Florida can be a joy in the colder months since you won’t be subjected to the heat and humidity that the state is known for during other portions of the year. Road and weather alert information is frequently updated on the festival website and social media pages, so don't forget to check these before starting on your trip.
Festival staff, security personnel, and volunteers can be flagged down if you or someone you know requires medical assistance. They will be able to direct you to the nearest healthcare facility or call 911 if it is an emergency. Service animals will be allowed to assist guests with disabilities.