Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Camping with Dancin' Dave

Since I'm still trying to figure out the best way to travel long-distance to festivals, I decided to try out Dancin' Dave's campsite setup service as a compromise lodging alternative. My other choices would have been a motel (if I had booked early enough) or a bare-bones camp I'd set up myself.

I prefer the traditional campground and jamming model of music festivals, and Dancin' Dave delivered. As large as MerleFest is, the camping is in a huge area running along the Yadkin River a few miles from the festival site. The shuttle service to the site was quick and reliable, but meant that people spent less time in camp. As a result, there was less opportunity to jam. Overall, I'd say the MerleFest camping, like many of the event logistics, was well organized and fairly problem-free but lacked somewhat in warmth and fuzziness.

Dave's setup was great. On arrival, I had no trouble finding his group camp and locating the tent with my name on it, one of about eight identical domes and couple of canopies. Besides the River's Edge camp I was in, Dave also had two other clusters of customers in camps farther down the river.

I had reserved the basic package from Dave for $50 a night. He also offers a setup with gazebo kitchen for twice that. Here's what I got: a large Eureka Sunrise 9 tent with carpeted floor and wood-slat entry mat, cot with pad and sleeping bag, camp chair, small side table, electric lantern, water carrier, first aid kit and earplugs.

To supplement that I brought along a foldable cooler, coffee pot and a one-burner stove. I'm not sure, but Dave would probably supply these add-ons if asked. Altogether, the camp was extremely comfortable. Having a large tent and cot was a revelation to me, and made me think I should invest in those for myself for future Strawberry festivals, where I am able to make a more elaborate camp.

The other nice thing about camping with Dave was meeting fellow campers. My group had an international flavor with a charming Barcelona couple and Maggie from Leeds in England. Also, I had Sunday coffee with a group of three Grey Fox regulars from upstate New York. Everybody I met was very friendly and had a story to tell.

Overall, Dave provides a good value, not cheap but very much worth the price in comfort and community. I would like to try it again at a smaller festival where the camping is adjacent to the stages, with all the benefits of festival camping. Maybe Grey Fox.

For more information, check out the Dancin' Dave website.

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