Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that Willie Nelson and the gang are bringing their annual altruistic, one-day festival, Farm Aid, to the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford on Sept. 22. You’ve got questions about how to get there and what to expect and we’ve got answers.
Who Is Performing?
The Farm Aid Board of Directors — Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews — are all performing. The alt-country crowd will get their money’s worth with sets from the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton. The lineup is rounded out by Jamey Johnson, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Particle Kid, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Ian Mellencamp. One recommendation is to arrive as early as possible. Gates open at noon; things are scheduled to wrap up at around 11 p.m.
It’s somewhat of a Farm Aid tradition that you never really know who’s going to take the stage when. Get there late to only catch the headliners, and you run the risk of missing impromptu jam sessions.
Some of the biggest stars will also take to a second stage in the vendor area, but not for musical performances. The Farmyard Stage will be holding forum-like discussions revolving around various topics and issues facing American farmers. It’s a unique and intimate way to hear why these musicians are so passionate for this cause.
What Else Is There To Do?
A lot. Besides an entire day’s worth of amazing music, Farm Aid offers a ton of activities to keep you busy. There’s a Hometown Village, which acts as a self-contained country fair complete with hands-on exhibits, art projects, and information on everything from government farm policies to learning how to compost. You can learn how to milk a cow, make paper out of hemp, make your own cheese, and tips for novice beekeepers. There is also a massive seed swap where concertgoers are encouraged to bring their own seeds to trade, and various family-friendly activities.
Attendees are also encouraged to show up hungry. Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions uses local ingredients including produce from Hartford’s own KNOX farm, fair trade coffee, and local cheeses. There will also be food vendors selling items special to Farm Aid.
Within the Homegrown Village is the Homegrown Youthmarket, a farmer’s market run by kids affiliated with several local and regional agricultural organizations. They’ll be selling local fruits, veggies, and baked goods. Both the Village and the Youthmarket will be open from 12 to 5:30 pm and concertgoers are encouraged to bring cash if they plan on purchasing any market items.
Lastly, attendees are encouraged to seek out and engage with the hundreds of farmers from Connecticut and across the country who will be in attendance. Farmers will be wearing special passes to identify them.
Can I Still Get Tickets?
Tickets for this thing sold out in mere minutes. But in the age of the internet no event is ever truly sold out. For example, on the reseller site StubHub, lawn seats can be had for as cheap as $106 each (as of this writing). That’s only double what you would have paid had you been one of the lucky ones to grab tickets when they originally went on sale.
Beware other resellers though. Farm Aid has an explicit policy that any tickets purchased through special pre-sale channels (i.e. artist fan clubs) will be null and void if Farm Aid discovers them for sale online through a third party prior to the show. That would mean no entry or refund for you. If you go the reseller route, play it safe and stick to the lawn seats. Also beware of people trying to get rid tickets at the venue; they could be fraudulent. Regardless of where you purchase tickets, children aged 2 and under are free as long as they sit on a parent’s lap during the show.
Another possibility to work your way into Farm Aid is to actually work for it. As of this writing Farm Aid is still taking applications for volunteers on their site. Volunteers work on average for four-hours during the festival performing various duties including working waste stations to help festival goers properly dispose of their garbage into the correct recycling and compost bins. However, in return volunteers receive a lawn seat to be used before and after your shift. (farmaid.org)
Can't Come To Farm Aid?
Let Farm Aid come to you. The Farm Aid website will be doing a live webcast beginning at 3 p.m. that you can watch from your computer, phone, tablet, smart TV, or any other device on which you have an internet connection. SiriusXM customers will get a chance to listen to a live broadcast from Farm Aid on Willie's Raodhouse (channel 59) beginning at noon. SiriusXM's coverage will include backstage interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage as well.
You also have a chance to attend the party before the party. The annual Farm Aid Eve, as it's called, will take place Friday, Sept. 21, at Dunkin Donuts Park. The event features performances by two local Americana bands, Wise Old Moon and River Run, a bevy of locally produced food and drink, and a presentation of the Spirit of Farm Aid awards (given to activists and artists who support the cause). Doors for this event are 6 p.m. and tickets cost $60 per person. As of this writing a limited number of tickets were still available, and discount tickets are available to farmers and farm groups.
Where Do I Park?
There are five Xfinity Theatre associated lots, three of which are included in the cost of your Farm Aid ticket. The Railtech Parking Lot (intersection of New Road and Weston Street), Market-Pequot Lot (intersection of Market and Pequot Streets), and Morgan Street Garage (intersection of Market and Talcott Streets), but they all come with at least a half mile walk to the venue. (You can pay extra to park in the Premier Lot adjacent to the main entrance and the EZ Out Parking lot at Savitt Way and Reverend Moody Overpass.)
You can also find a spot in one of several parking lots operated by the various local businesses in the area, although those have historically been for fans that enjoy tailgating and everything both good and bad that comes with it (these lots vary in price.) RVs and similarly oversized vehicles can park onsite, but will be charged an extra $100 for the day.
If you’re coming from out of town your best bet may be public transportation. The new CT Rail service runs from New Haven from the south and Springfield from the north. The New Haven stop is especially accessible from New York City via Metro-North. If you can get to the Big Apple you can make it to Hartford via train with ease. Another option for the slightly more adventurous is LimeBike. Whether you are coming into Hartford via public transportation or decide to beat the traffic and park in one of the lots downtown, there’s a good chance one of those green bikes will be waiting for you. You can’t be more in line with Farm Aid’s environmental message than by showing up via bicycle.
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Where Can I Stay Close By?
There are at least half a dozen hotels that are within walking (or biking) distance, or are a short Uber drive away. Three downtown hotels in particular — Red Lion, Candlewood Suites, and Homewood Suites — are listed on the Farm Aid website as part of its Hotels For Hope project. Every room booked through that link generates a $2 contribution to Farm Aid’s Homegrown Youthmarket.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Like all large venues, Xfinity Theatre has lists of both permitted and restricted items you can bring inside. Acceptable items include cameras (no flash photography), food items in a one gallon bag or smaller, up to one gallon of factory sealed water, lawn chairs, and blankets. Unlike most shows at this venue you are also permitted to bring audio recording equipment. The Grateful Dead would approve.
Items that are prohibited from the venue include the usual suspects: weapons, outside alcohol, coolers, and laser pointers. You should also be prepared to leave your drones, aerosol cans, backpacks/duffel bags, fireworks, and pets (excluding service animals) at home as well.