Like any good millennial, I spent Memorial Day Weekend at a music festival – three days full of great music, camping, and 12,000 other people. Saquatch! Music Festival is an annual event held at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA. The beloved music venue dramatically overlooks the Columbia Gorge; creating a stunning, magical backdrop for artists to groove in front of.  Sasquatch! was started in 2002 after touring festivals had petered out and regional festivals became the popular choice. By 2006, what had started as a one day festival with eight bands had turned into a three day party with over 50 bands and it only grew from there. It is one of the most popular music festivals in the US, with attendees coming from everywhere from the East Coast to British Columbia. And with music festivals becoming more popular, this is no easy feat. Sasquatch! secures their individuality by focusing the lineup on indie rock and singer-songwriters, but also incorporating EDM, hip hop, and hard rock. The venue is quite remote and there is little lodging available so most attendees camp in adjoining fields, making the vibe of the whole festival that of a non-stop party. This was my third Sasquatch! adventure, having attended in 2012 and 2013, and I was eager to make my return: the Gorge Amphitheater is stunning, the people are nice, and the lineup was absolutely killer.

Live music is my passion and I’ll happily brave a lot of challenges to be perfectly situated for my favorite bands, but the one thing I was nervous about at Sasquatch! this year was being able to keep myself properly nourished. As a gluten free vegetarian, I knew that the key to my success was proper planning. Having been to the venue before, I knew somewhat what I could expect for food choices inside and plan my snacks and meals around that. I want to point out that though I don’t physically tolerate gluten well, I am not sensitive in the way of celiacs and therefore, in times of need, I am just fine to eat items that may have been cross contaminated. That being said, all food items served at the Gorge Amphitheater were in major danger of cross contamination. I chose to prepare for the weekend like I was not going to be eating anything inside; not only is it slim pickings, but it’s absurdly expensive.

If you’re not used to it, meal planning can be a bit tricky, but man, is it worth it! I’ll never forget my second year attending the festival: my friends and I failed to properly plan, and by the fourth day, all we had left was a five pound bag of tortilla chips and no salsa. It was after that weekend that I got on the food preparation train. Start by breaking down how many meals you’ll need to feed yourself for; Sasquatch! ran from Friday May 25-Sunday May 27, but I arrived Thursday night and left Monday morning, meaning I had to prepare for four breakfasts, three lunches, four dinners, and three days’ worth of snacks. Lucky for me, this was a solo jaunt and I only had to worry about food for myself. My game plan was to eat breakfast in the morning, eat a very large lunch before entering the festival, and then bring a bag of food for the afternoon/evening. To simplify (and cut costs), I decided I was going to eat many of the same items for the couple of days I was there, so I chose to pick up some of Bob’s Redmill oatmeal cups – just add boiling water and you’ll have a sweet, steaming cup of oatmeal! This was delightfully easy as I could just boil the water on my camp stove, pour it into the cup, and presto! I struggle with keeping my blood sugar stabilized, so starting my day with something wholegrain and simple like oatmeal really does wonders for me.

Music festivals can be rough; they are incredibly fun and absurdly entertaining, but a couple of days of braving the weather, enduring the crowds and the inevitable indulgences can really wreak havoc on both your body and your routine. And don’t forget that you’ll be camping alongside all of those rowdy hooligans…I highly suggest ear plugs. Luckily, Sasquatch! doesn’t start for the day until 1PM, so you have the whole morning for rest and relaxation (take advantage, the festival rages on until 2AM). Taking the time to make a delicious and substantial meal before going into the festival not only insured that I was properly nourished, but also gave me time to focus on myself and how I was feeling, before getting lost in the stream of the music festival. The first thing I think of when I want a substantially nourishing meal is a big, hulking veggie burger. Fortunately, veggie burgers are easy to make, easy to transport, and easy to pack with all the nutrients you’re absolutely going to miss while lost in the merriment. I love packing my veggie burgers full of beans or veggies and covet my greatest recipes.

This Cheesy Black Bean Burger recipe was absolutely ideal for Sasquatch! It’s loaded with black beans and onions, spices and cheddar and is absolutely to die for. These burgers are delightfully simple—I whipped up a batch for my weekend extravaganza, froze the whole batch before cooking it, and stored extras for future dinners. I kept my festival ready burgers in the freezer until I packed my cooler and then sat them in plastic bags directly on the ice to maintain freshness, right by my frozen Columbia Gorge Bakery buns. Likewise, I made a batch of these Hummus and Chickpea Veggie Burgers and prepared them in the same way. To ready the burger for eating, I added a little oil to my frying pan and set it on my camp stove at medium heat. Once hot, place patty in the frying pan and let cook for about three minutes on each side; both sides should be nice and crispy. If there’s room in the pan, add your buns and heat them up while cooking your burger. If you want even more cheese, add it to the patty in the last minute of cooking. And what’s a burger without sides? I would recommend that during your preparation stage, you prepare some simple sides—roasted veggies, quinoa salad or home fries are all easy and great options. I chose to go with sides of rice and potatoes for their versatility; music festivals are like marathons so it’s important to carbo load. To go with my black bean burgers, I selected my pre-made curried home fries. These are so delicious and as simple as adding a few teaspoons of curry powder to your potatoes while they’re frying. I packed a few containers of these in my cooler and then heated them up with my burger for a delightful meal that was the envy of all my neighbors.

This routine continued for the following days, as on day two I fried up one of the delicious Hummus and Chickpea burgers and on day three, I made a delectable Portobello mushroom. The Hummus and Chickpea burger easily fried up on the camp stove and was a true delight with the addition of tomato and sprouts. I made a quick and easy Mexican inspired rice dish—adding salsa, garlic, and cilantro to give it a bite, and serving it with avocado on the top. The Portobello burger was as simple as sautéing onions and garlic in a pan, adding the Portobello mushroom cap to the fray and then cooking the mushroom for about five minutes on each side until tender. Served on a Columbia Gorge Bakery bun and with avocado on top and a side of my garlic homefries—as simple as frying up those potatoes with a little minced garlic—and it’s no wonder that day three was my favorite!

Some venues will prohibit you from bringing any outside food or drinks into the festival, the Gorge Amphitheater, however, allows you to bring in a gallon snack bag and a sealed bottle of water. I thought long and hard on what to pack in my snack bag, knowing that I was going to leave my campsite each day at 1pm and not return until well after midnight. I knew that I would need not only snacks, but also something that had some substance, so I, of course, landed on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Columbia Gorge Bakery bread, as it is high in protein and fiber. I added bananas, apples, almonds, carrots and rice cakes. To round it out, I packed Columbia Gorge Bakery’s salted chocolate granola bars and my absolute favorite cookies, peanut butter and dark chocolate chip. I can’t explain the true joy that comes from having a well packed snack bag; it’s like a little bag of love. Naturally, I packed the exact same bag for all three days…why mess with perfection?

So maybe I’m just food oriented, but once I entered the festival and got my bearings, I immediately turned my attention to the food choices. The Gorge Amphitheater has some permanent concession stands with food options—French fries, chicken strips, cheeseburger, sandwich or teriyaki noodles— that have stayed the same for years. For bigger events, like Sasquatch! or other festivals, they bring in assorted food trucks for both inside the festival and the campgrounds. This year I saw slices of pizza, dumplings, breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and more. I approached the man selling burritos and asked if there was a way to do the burrito without the tortilla, like a bowl. He immediately got very flustered and seemed downright angry, sputtering as to why this wasn’t possible as I slowly backed away. It was a good reminder that not everyone is accommodating, and some people are just the worst. I did have some luck in one of the concession stands, not only did they have delicious loaded fries but they also had a menu that marked vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options! Though there are some good food choices, it is all very small portions at a high price. Naturally, being a music venue, they sell a lot of alcohol and it too is priced to make you sad. 24oz cans of domestic beers were going for $16, 12oz frozen margaritas for $18, and a small glass of wine for $14. Though the margaritas and wine are friendly to the gluten intolerant, the sheer amount of beer variety made the lack of hard cider or other options very obvious.

Music festivals are an experience unlike any other; they bring together people from all different backgrounds and unifies them with the simplest magic we have. That being said, they aren’t without their difficulties, even if you don’t have food intolerances! Please, learn from my mistakes. Here are some general tips: Bring hand sanitizer. You never know what way the wind is going to blow or how cold it’ll get at night; layers are your friend! Bring a lightweight backpack for quick changes and a place to store your gear and merch. Always identify the nearest restroom and the quickest exit out of the crowd. Make friends with security guards. Wear closed toed, supportive shoes and dress comfortably. The end. :)