The Mountain Beckons: Prepare Yourself For Wakarusa 2015

The Mountain Beckons: Prepare Yourself For Wakarusa 2015
Photos Courtesy of Ironside Photography

Photos Courtesy of Ironside Photography

We are T-minus two weeks away from the biggest annual hangout-bumpin’-music-mania-campin’-dance party palooza in Arkansas: Wakarusa.

With just two weeks out from the festival, it’s as good a time as ever to get planned for the fest-of-all things crazy fun. Let this guide be a quick reference for the experienced, and hopefully raise a few inexperienced eyebrows in enlightened fashion.

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, they’re still for sale at the festival’s website. Full event passes are $209 plus tax and fees, along with a $119 main venue camping pass. That’s the “normal” price, and there are several more affordable options for weekend only passes and riverside camping.

Check out our coverage of last year’s Wakarusa

Unless you opt for the luxurious VIP camping ($710 for the whole shebang), which includes catered meals, full bathrooms, a shaded and private gated campground and unlimited beverages, you’ll want to take a second to plan what you need so you can do the Waka experience right.

Lucky for us in northwest Arkansas, it’s only about an hour drive (a beautiful one at that) there and back from Mulberry Mountain. So, if you’re up for it, it’s feasible to just come down for the day and drive home when you want. Many already do this. But, it’s really about the camping.

Festival officials expect the campgrounds at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Ark. — where Wakarusa is held — to host about 20,000 attendees this year. As fun and awesome as the festival be, don’t let the stress of all the people and the hot and muggy weather get to you. Just going with the flow is the best advice.

One thing you may want to do if this is your first time is practice setting up your tent on your own before going and planning out how your campsite will be set up. You’ll get a reasonable amount of space next to your car for you to set up your base camp. Decorations are encouraged, some groups get some awesome tent cities strung together. If you have a canopy to put over your area, the extra shade will be a big help.

Get familiar with the campground once you’re set up to know where the medical tents, bathrooms, general store, roads and stages are so you can orientate yourself to your surroundings.

SEI20140607_1713If you see some bad news out there, like someone face down on the ground or a fight, definitely get a hold of a staff member who can radio in some help. The staff aren’t looking to get anyone in trouble. The rule “If you see something, say something,” applies here, Koegh said.

“If everybody behaves themselves, we’ll have a good time,” said Jonathan Koegh, director of security for Wakarusa. “Just respect your neighbor. That’s the rule of the day, if everybody respects each other we’ll have a good time and listen to some great music. It’s a magical place up on the mountain, and I’m looking forward to it.”

If any severe weather rolls through, the safest place to be will be inside a hard-top vehicle, Koegh said.

So, besides getting prepped, let’s look at the reason why we’re all going.

“Waka is first and foremost about the music,” said Brett Moisman, director of Wakarusa. “This year there’s dozens of bands that have never played the festival before. Everybody on our crew is really a passionate music fan. Whether its Seeing Major Lazer for the first time or Rising Appalachia, we get excited for both of them. Having an opportunity to see nearly 200 sets in four or five days is pretty exciting.”

This years headliners include Ben Harper and his reunion with The Innocent Criminals, The Roots, Portugal. The Man, Thievery Corporation and Major Lazer.

“The Roots, I’m personally very excited for,” Moisman said. “There’s maybe a handful of acts that I put in offers for every year. The Roots are definitely one of those that have had eight offers, and haven’t been able to come until now. We’re really excited to have them. They’re just one of the best bands in America. I know they’ll be a huge hit.”

Some bands to definitely check out:

  • Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (Grateful Dead tribute)
  • Nahko and Medicine for the People
  • Natural Child
  • Galactic with Macy Gray
  • Jamestown Revival
  • Gigantic Underground Conspiracy (Members of Disco Biscuits, Underground Orchestra, Big Gigantic, Conspirator / RAQ)

Most of all, just keep an open mind, do the buddy system and don’t sweat the small stuff. Bring on Wakarusa!


Drink Water! This one’s a no-brainer to anyone who’s done an outdoor activity, but it is vital that you guzzle water throughout the day. Dehydration will ruin your day. Camelbaks and other water backpacks come recommended. Remember, beer and liquor actually dehydrate you.

Sunscreen. Be sure to re-apply it throughout the day to avoid neon pink skin. Unless that’s your rave attire.

Nutrition. Don’t live off Red Bull and Doritos. Just make sure you give your body the right fuel for those exhausting days and nights. Pack some fruit, veggies and sandwiches in a cooler to save you money. There’s a couple fantastic food trucks there you should definitely try, too. Don’t forget to eat!

Sleep, rest and take naps. Last year I couldn’t stay up past 2 a.m. for the life of me. There’s a lot to see and do, but find time to take it easy and rest up for the insane late night sets. You don’t want to fall asleep standing up like I did. Also, an air mattress certainly makes for a better bed than just a sleeping bag.

Hygiene. Don’t feel pressured to look good, but slap on that deodorant for the sake of your fellow attendees. If you don’t want to pay $10/shower or $25 for unlimited showers, consider a solar camp shower. They’re pretty affordable and easy to set up. Wet wipes make for a quick and easy way to freshen up.

Bring enough cash! There’s ATMs on site, but save yourself the hassle and plan ahead. Few, if any, vendors take credit cards out there.

Pack some toilet paper. Just for the peace of mind. It’s a safe bet the port-a-potties will run out quickly.

Forget something? The General Stores across the campground carry most all of the essentials, as well as Wakarusa Director Brett Moisman’s favorite breakfast burritos.


GET THERE EARLY If you can, why not maximize your time at the festival? Your feet will thank you later for the closer parking

SUPPORT THE ARKANSAS SCENE Shawn James & The Shapeshifters, Vintage Pistol and Amasa Hines will be playing the festival. Go check out their sets and scream loudly.

MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS There’s countless stories from frequent Wakarusa goers that their neighbors became their best friends at the festival. It won’t hurt to say hi, you’ve already got something in common — you like music!

GO SEE A BAND YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF The bands at the festival have passed the test. They’re all good. Go out and stick around for their set. For all we know, a few of the smaller bands this year could be headlining next year.

EXPLORE, SEE THE ART This year, more parts of the mountain have opened up for hiking and trailblazing. This year also will see an increase in art installations from regional artists. Take it all in!



On the flip side, this is a great idea for larger groups. However, you don’t want to be that person who pisses off everyone behind them because your “clever” meme is blocking their view of Questlove.


The festival can be a crazy place full of crazy stuff. Don’t go losing your self control and doing more than you can handle. There’s reward in taking things easy and in moderation.


As much as this sounds like a great time to bring your dog, it’s prohibited. Service ADA dogs are allowed with proper documentation.


This would be one of those times where you should unplug for a little bit and enjoy what’s going on in the moment around you.


Communicate! Don’t wander off and leave your friends wondering if you’re alive or not, or bail on a meet up. At the same time, don’t stress yourself out and expect everything to work out according to plan.

WakaArtTop 5 Things to Do and See at Wakarusa

  1. 1. It’s been said every year, but if you’re up for the hour and a half hike, do yourself a favor and check out the hidden waterfall grotto on Mulberry Mountain.
  2. 2. Take a dip in the Mulberry river while you chill out to the tunes of the Riverside stage. There’s free shuttle rides there and back.
  3. 3. Chompdown! Join in on the free, unofficial breakfast potluck at the RV campgrounds Saturday morning. Expect long lines, but if you volunteer or donate some food you’re allowed to cut in line!
  4. 4. The Ferris Wheel, man. It’s 12 stories tall, it lights up, and it’s likely to provide you with a poignant moment at the top as you look out over the festival.
  5. 5. Go tour the extra art installations on the campgrounds this year. There will be temporary art performances, those that need crowd involvement, a mobile party car and natural structures all around for attendees to check out.
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