Virgin Mobile FreeFest

Please note: This event has already occurred.
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Editorial Review

A typical show at Merriweather Post Pavilion draws about 18,000 people, but an expected 50,000 concertgoers will attend Virgin Mobile FreeFest on Saturday.
This requires some herculean planning. Do not be deterred. Tip No. 1? Arrive early.

Where and when: Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. Gates open at 11 a.m., and the festival ends at 11 p.m. Merriweather Post Pavilion's main parking lot will open at 9 a.m.

How will the venue accommodate the extra drivers? There will be additional parking outside the regular lot off Broken Land Parkway. Signs will direct drivers to satellite lots, and shuttles will ferry concertgoers to the festival.

Can I bring my own drinks or food? You can bring up to two sealed plastic water bottles or an empty reusable bottle for water. Food will be permitted in clear, non-glass containers. Also add to your list: a small blanket to sit on, sunscreen and a small backpack to carry it all. (Coolers, chairs and large bags are prohibited, as is tailgating).

What kind of food will be available for purchase? Unlike Sweetlife Festival, FreeFest won't bring in a caravan of food trucks. Instead, expect an expanded Merriweather menu that's as gloriously greasy as anything you'd find at the county fair. Think: veggie-fried rice, grilled cheese, deep-fried Oreos, pizza, barbecue, quesadillas, falafel and Italian sausages. On a diet? Eat a salad. Beforehand.

How do I score seats in the pavilion? The covered seats are first come, first served. The standing pavilion pit is cleared between each act, giving late arrivers a chance to score a prime view.

What is there to do between sets? Check out the "village," where you'll find some mindless fun, including a ferris wheel. Artist Brian McGregor, who for 10 years made interactive elements for fans at Phish concerts, is bringing a giant camera that acts as a multi-person photo booth; a mini "beach"; and a half-dozen mustache-shaped see-saws. Lady Buggies, the glowing cooties-on-wheels that graced Coachella, will roam the grounds, and New York's hipster vaudeville act, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, will perform its sideshow theatrics.

--Lavanya Ramanathan (Sept. 17, 2013)