Shoeclack’s Guide to: Boots & Hearts
Located in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Boots & Hearts is the largest country music festival in the country. With a sell-out crowd of over 40 000 people camping for the weekend, it’s also one of the biggest parties around. Featuring 4 nights of music including major acts like Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, and Sam Hunt, Boots is a collection of some of the best artists in modern pop-country.
A Breakdown of the Boots & Hearts Experience
Full-weekend wristbands for the festival usually sell out before the festival, so be sure to buy yours well in advance if you aren’t willing to risk missing out. Weekend passes start at around $300, plus camping/parking. As well, for 2016, Boots & Hearts moved to cashless spending through RFID wristbands which you can pre-load or load-up on site. All of the food trucks and drink vendors take payment via wristbands, so you don’t need to carry around your wallet and cash, just 19+ ID if you want to drink alcohol.
Camping is one of the best aspects of the festival. While you can purchase parking passes for single days, the campground experience is something not to miss. Although the headliners end at 11 PM and the late-night dance party usually ends around 2 AM, the campground parties go all night. From drinking games to blaring country tunes, there’s definitely something fun for night-owls to enjoy. Making friends with neighbours or wandering around the campgrounds and meeting new people is one of the best aspects of a camping festival. As well, it’s a great way to save some cash, since you can have food and drinks at your campsite.
3. The Crowd
The Boots & Hearts crowd covers all age groups, from families with young children to college students. Although it is family-friendly, it definitely has a reputation for being a party festival, especially for people 19-24. With a crowd of over 40 000 people, the festival grounds are often packed, so be ready for long lines and big crowds. That being said: if you’re looking to meet new people and party through the night, this crowd is perfect for you.
4. The Stages
The festival only has two large stages, which makes it difficult to get close to must-see acts. If you need to be front-row for an act, be prepared to get there early and hold your spot for hours. The bulk of the crowd will roam from stage to stage as the acts play, so arriving while the crowd is at the other stage is your best bet. If you aren’t lucky or committed enough to get to the front, the stages are set up with huge screens and exceptional speaker systems to ensure you can see and hear the entire show regardless of where you are in the massive crowd.
5. Food Trucks & Beverage Vendors
One of Boots & Hearts best features is the great selection of food from food trucks. From massive barbecue portions to vegetarian and vegan options, the festival has something for everyone. The new RFID prices range from $7-$14 for full meals, but the quality of the food and large portion sizes are more than worth the price. Beverages, on the other hand, are quite expensive. If you’re a beer aficionado, you’re out of luck in the festival grounds with only Coors Banquet and Coors Light being sold. However, if you’re a fan of ciders or canned mixed drinks, there are quite a few options available. Either way, the price hovers around $9.75 for a tallboy of beer, and can be even more expensive for other options. Be sure to bring your favourite drinks into your campsite to save some cash.
Whether you plan on camping or not, you definitely have to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Ontario summers can be unpredictable. From hot and sunny days with chilly nights to brutal thunderstorms, make sure you have everything you need to stay safe and comfortable. Sunscreen, hats, sweaters, raincoats, ponchos, and rubber boots are all must-have items for the weekend.
Tips from a Boots & Hearts Veteran:
- Drink as much water as possible
Between running around the festival grounds in the hot sun and drinking beer all day, dehydration is one of the most dangerous and common ailments at camping festivals. Throughout the day, be sure to drink as much water as possible. Always carry a water bottle with you – they can be re-filled at the water stations in the festival grounds.
- Check out afternoon sets
A huge portion of the crowd hangs back at their campsites for most of the afternoon. Because of this, it’s really easy to get close to the stage for afternoon shows. Although you may not be familiar with the earlier acts, it’s a great way to discover up-and-coming young country artists in what feels like an intimate outdoor show. Since the gates open around noon, be sure to head in early at least once. Take advantage of the short lines for food trucks and drinks and check out a new band.
- Shade is your best friend
Besides water, the most important thing during a multi-day camping festival is having shade. Sitting out in the sun all day can be the downfall for even the most seasoned festival veteran. To avoid sunburns, dehydration, and general discomfort, bring at least one canopy for your campsite so your crew can hang out in the shade during the mornings and afternoons. If possible, also bring tarps or a second canopy to put over your tent. The sun rises early, and your tent is sure to be too hot to sleep by 8 AM, so a bit of shade can provide a few more precious hours of sleep. As well, having a ton of shade is a great way to meet your neighbours.
- Keep an eye on social media
This tends to be a tip for every modern festival. Boots & Hearts has a heavy media presence and their own app. Be sure to download the app and keep tabs on their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). You never know when secret guests will show up or random surprise sets will pop up on the festival grounds, so keeping an eye on social media is a must. They will also keep you updated on schedule changes, freebies from sponsors, and other need-to-know information.
- Bring your own food for the campsite
Although food trucks are delicious and convenient, eating 2-3 meals a day in the festival can get expensive. For thrifty festival attendees, bringing cooking gear can save you a bunch of cash. Boots & Hearts allows small propane and charcoal stoves and barbecues, so simple meals like hot dogs, burgers, bacon, and eggs are quick and convenient. Beyond simple meals, also bring as much fresh fruit as possible. Not only is it healthy, it’s a refreshing break from food truck meals and alcohol.
- Bring ear plugs and a sleep mask
Country crowds can be rowdy all hours of the night. If you’re desperate for a few hours of sleep, ear plugs and a sleep mask are absolutely necessary. For me, these two crucial items have doubled my sleep time at camping festivals, making it that much easier to enjoy my days and stay up later at night.