A Beginner’s Guide to Float Fest 2018

Float Fest has successfully managed to blend live music, camping, fun on the river and, yes, giant inflatable pizzas.
Float Fest has successfully managed to blend live music, camping, fun on the river and, yes, giant inflatable pizzas. Photo by Roger Ho/Courtesy of Float Fest
Float Fest has really emerged as a player on the Texas music festival scene, and this is no surprise. After all, the summer festival – taking place July 21-22 at Cool River Ranch in Martindale – truly showcases what summertime in Texas is all about.

Patrons can float the river. They can drink cold beer. They can check out a ton of live music. And, perhaps in the most Texas way of all, they can do so under the absolute scalding sun only a Texas summer day can provide.

So, yeah, it’s no surprise that Float Fest will once again sell out this year. Hell, it’s become a go-to festival of sorts for out-of-state types who want to truly experience what a Texas summer is all about, all the while checking out name-brand artists like Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and Modest Mouse.

However, despite Float Fest having skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, those who have yet to attend may be a bit confused as to what exactly Float Fest is. Not to worry; here’s a Float Fest primer.

Well, it’s right there in the name. Float Fest began five years ago as a local festival that offered live music, camping and river floating, all in one convenient location. This year, the festival will sell out and draw more upwards of 20,000 river revelers.

Technically, it’s at Cool River Ranch in tiny Martindale, but for anyone unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Central Texas, it’s okay to say that Float Fest takes place just outside San Marcos. Cool River Ranch is perfectly suited for a festival the size of Float Fest, considering it’s really not located near anything at all, which allows plenty of room for live music, camping and the late-night partying for which Float Fest has become known.

Well, considering Martindale is conveniently located in proximity to San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos, the college crowd certainly comprises a healthy percentage of Float Fest patrons. However, the festival has really caught on with 30-somethings looking to spend a day or two on the river. This year’s lineup – with throwback acts like Toadies, Snoop Dogg, Bun B, Lil Wayne and Modest Mouse – certainly caters to a slightly older crowd, while artists like Run the Jewels, Tame Impala and Bassnectar appeal to the younger crowd. Plus, Houston’s own the Suffers are playing, which is always a good thing.

For those who have yet to attend Float Fest, this is the million-dollar question. How does one camp, party, listen to music and float the river, all in one place? Do you float the river while listening to music? No, Lil Wayne and Modest Mouse are not going to be playing on the river banks while you float by. And, no, this doesn’t all take place at Cool River Ranch. Instead, the camping and live music grounds are adjacent to one another on the festival grounds, while a shuttle provides transportation to and from the river. Festivalgoers can float one or both days – or, not at all, if they so choose – and in-and-out access is allowed on the live music grounds. While campers are allowed to bring their own food and drink (yes, including alcohol), these items are not allowed inside the concert grounds.

*You can bring your own tube but will still have to pay for a floating pass. In other words, just use one of the tubes provided by Float Fest and save yourself the trouble.

*This isn’t ACL or Voodoo Fest, where patrons kinda have to pick an artist or two to check out, due to the size of the venue. The concert grounds are fairly small, in comparison, and only feature two stages. You may not be able to get a prime location for artists playing separate stages back-to-back, but you will be able to check out Lil Wayne on the Sun Stage Saturday from 7:45-9 p.m., then hightail it over to the Water Stage for Modest Mouse’s set from 9-10:15.

*BBQ grills are allowed on the festival grounds, but no open fires.

*Children under 10 are free.

*Campgrounds close one hour after the concert ends each night and at midnight on Friday. Patrons may not exit and return after gates are locked.

*Arrive early. If you’re planning to camp for at least one night, as most festivalgoers do, camping sites/parking spots fill up quickly. Particularly for groups of friends looking to create one big campsite, arrive Friday night or first thing Saturday morning.You can even catch a shuttle if you so choose.

*Drink water. Yes, a major appeal of Float Fest is the ability to consume mass quantities of alcohol while being contained in a friendly locale, and this is all well and good. But temperatures will reach the high 90s in Martindale, so sprinkle in some hydration here and there.

*Wear sunscreen, and reapply. See the above item as to why.

*Don’t get drunk and pick a fight. This should go without saying, but when alcohol and the amped-up, sun-soaked masses unite, nothing goes without saying.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale