RFID wristbands

RFID wristbands at Roots N Blues 2017.

It’s almost time to dig your best cowboy boots out of the closet and start scouting out your favorite artists’ performance times — the 2019 Roots N Blues N BBQ festival is officially less than a week away. But before Columbia’s favorite celebration of music, food and art is truly in full swing, you might also want to check out the dos and don’ts of this year’s event.

Here’s the rundown on what to expect at this year's Roots N Blues, so you can make sure your weekend is as effortless as it will be exciting.

What to know if you’re a novice

Although Roots N Blues has become a staple of Columbia’s music fans over the years, the festival could seem daunting if you’ve never attended before. To help, Vox editors Cameron Flatt and Catherine Wendlandt sat down to discuss the festival and what newcomers should expect when they go. 

Don’t park at the park

Guests aren’t allowed to park their cars at Stephens Lake Park during Roots N Blues, but the festival is only a short walk from downtown Columbia. 

A free shuttle service will run to and from downtown parking garages throughout the weekend. Columbia's public transit system, Go COMO, will stick to its regular routes and schedules and will not provide its Late Night Trips for the fest as in previous years.*

Of course, biking to the event is always an option — free bike parking will be available at the entrance to the festival. But Bird users, beware: Roots N Blues fest director Tracy Lane writes in an email interview that, for safety reasons, the scooters will not be allowed inside Stephens Lake Park during festival hours.

To learn more about how to get to the festival, visit the transportation page on the Roots N Blues N BBQ website. 

Keeping it cashless

Since 2017, the Roots N Blues festival has been completely cashless, and that continues this year. Instead of using cash, debit cards or credit cards, guests will be issued RFID wristbands that will serve as their tickets into their festival and as a “digital wallet,” according to the festival website. For those who have received their wristbands in the mail, the bands can be registered online and loaded with money prior to the event, though there will also be several top-up stations on festival grounds.

At the end of the event, unused money will be refunded to guests automatically, though Lane says they can also choose to donate remaining funds to the Roots N Blues Foundation in support of a music education program for the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia.

Some stuff should stay at home

As great of an idea as it might seem to let your pets romp around Stephens Lake Park this weekend, no furry friends are allowed at Roots N Blues except for working service animals. Also not allowed: coolers, your own food and drinks, glass containers and professional mics or other audio equipment. You’re there to listen to the music, after all — not to record it.

Lane also reminds people not to bring umbrellas, selfie sticks or anything else that protrudes or could get in the way of other guests trying to enjoy the festival. 

All that said, strollers and bags are still allowed at the event. Just be prepared to have your bags wanded and searched before entering the festival. Staying hydrated is also important, so bring along those reusable water bottles, as long as they're not made out of glass. They need to be empty when you arrive, but once you’re in, there are plenty of hydration stations for you to fill back up. 

Singin’ in the rain

The forecast this weekend might be iffy, but there’s still a 100% chance of great music and fun-filled performances. Keep your ponchos and rain jackets around because the show will go on even in wet weather; just remember to leave those umbrellas in the car.

*CLARIFICATION: Columbia's public transit service will offer its usual routes during the festival. An earlier version of this story could have been misinterpreted. 

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