Festival Shenanigans: 101

Two jester-like participants boasting surprised expressions and a whole lot of black and white stripes.
Photo by Cristie Kiley

Festivals are one the best places to not take yourself too seriously and get a little goofy. Or a lot goofy!

If you’ve never been to a festival, you may be caught off guard by the free-flowing creative expression, by the outrageous costumes people wear, or by the absolute child-like silliness that many attendees seem to embody. Have you ever wondered how you can join in on the fun? Below is a guide for ways to unleash all of your silliness, with some inspiring examples to get your creative juices flowing.

1) Costumes and Role-playing

When you enter a festival, you can choose to be who ever you want. You can put on any costume, speak in any voice, and create a whole character for yourself. While this character creation adds to the fun, we want to be mindful that our new personas and costumes are respectful of other cultures, and that they do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. 

Man dressed in astronaut costume among the Lucid Stage laser lights with some light flares and blur for effect.
Photo by Tanya Nesta

I’ve seen a group of friends roam a festival all dressed in clown costumes, with lots of silly and ridiculous toys like rubber chickens, whistles, noise makers, and squeakers. Instead of dancing to the music, they put on a silly mime show to the beat.

Another example I’ve heard of was a man in a gorilla suit chasing a man in a banana suit through the crowd. Costumes and personas can be ridiculous, satirical, silly, saucy and fun. You can create your own unique characters, or draw inspiration from your favorite TV shows, cartoons, circus acts, and other festival attendees.

2) Heckling 

Typically when we hear the word “heckler”, we think of a person interrupting an important politician, or cross-talking at a comedy show. At a festival, however, heckling is any form of ridiculous banter that causes one to laugh, think, pause, or enjoy the experience. It’s an art form.

When heckling at a festival, there is sometimes a fine line between adding to the enjoyment and outright annoying other attendees. In general, as long as you follow the guidelines of peace, love, unity and respect, your heckling will often be appreciated, if not engaged with further heckling. If you notice that your heckling receives a positive response, then keep it going!

One example of heckling I’ve heard of is a squad of porta potty cheerleaders at Burning Man. They go to areas with porta potties and cheer people on from the outside as they do their business, and create an all out celebration when people finish doing their doo.

Woman wielding megaphone dressed in bee themed attire with her fellow hive.
Photo by Cristie Kiley

For boss mode heckling, grab a megaphone and post up in a heavily trafficked area between stages (and away from people sleeping at their camp). Tell some jokes, advertise a fake product, or put on a persona, and let the ridiculousness ensue. 

3) Gag Gifts

Gifting is a beautiful part of many festivals and transformational gatherings. But what if your gifts make someone laugh, too? Gag gifts are a great way to spread silliness and add memorable moments to people’s experience. 

Some examples include things like finger puppets, stickers, satirical flyers/pamphlets/zines (check out The Jaded Review for inspiration), trinkets, and even clothespins with mustaches and googley eyes. Extra points if you stealth gift someone on the dancefloor by attaching it to their hat or backpack!

Attendee standing at his end of a life size chess board near main stage. Surely he's sorting a bold strategy in his head based on his focus.
Photo by Sydnee Wilson

4) Interactive Games

Can you create an interactive, role-playing, or trippy spinoff of your favorite board game? Or perhaps a wacky adaptation of a popular sport? Think rainbow mini-golf rave or funky fresh fruit twister.

At Lucidity last year, there was a satirical and psychedelic game show. Other games at Lucidity have included Frick Frack Black Jack, a gambling game that pays out in various trinkets that will fuel your shenanigans! What fun games could YOU bring to Lucidity this year?

5) Totems

A totem is a sign, art piece, stuffed animal, or flag on a stick that helps people find you in a crowd. Totems can be great conversation starters and sources of humor. I’ve seen totems with internet memes printed on them, ridiculous looking stuffed animals in odd positions, inuendos, tongue twisters, spinoffs of common phrases (i.e “May the Bass Be With You”), pop culture references, and glowing art. 

Festival crew holding "This Party Sucks" totem in funky fun colors. Also featured, a "Bork?" totem from a popular meme.
Photo by Harrison Weinberg / @StaticNomadic

The most important guidelines for creating a totem are that they are respectful, that they do not block the view of the stage (avoid putting huge double flags on a tall pole), and that they are lightweight and safe (avoid metal poles or dangly pieces that can fall off).

6) Theme Camps 

Theme camps can be the ultimate epitome of festival shenanigans, combining all of the aforementioned avenues into an interactive and organized chaos. They require a lot of coordination and planning, but when pulled off, they can create an immersive and fun experience for your group and for anyone who comes by your camp.

One of the more fun and interactive examples I’ve seen was a circus camp fully equipped with a trampoline, circus toys, aerial silks, and a slackline. The camp even featured workshops taught by circus performers.

Theme camps are most successful when they are based on a unique idea, when they are visually and aesthetically appealing, when they are highly interactive, and when they offer meaning and value to festival goers.

In general, shenanigans can run along any theme or silly whim that you feel drawn to, as long as you keep it safe, respectful, silly, weird, and fun. 

Play a prank on your friends. Initiate a flash mob. Be spontaneous. Let your inner child shine! Festival shenanigans will help you level up from a simple spectator to a fully active participant.

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