It’s already mid-June, the end of the semester has come and gone and college students have either returned home for the summer or are taking advantage of every travel opportunity they can manage. The one thing that tops most summer destination bucket lists? Music festivals.

Between Bonnaroo’s four-day camping festival, Hangout Fest’s beachy experience and Lollapalooza’s usual star-studded lineup, each festival is unique in its own way. But, the festivals I’m most interested in are those that haven’t yet reached A-List exclusivity.

COIN

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed by a lot of the festival lineups this year [due to my own personal tastes] but Laurelive’s was one that instantly intrigued me. With headliners Hozier and Sheryl Crow and other artists like Misterwives, COIN and AJR, how could I resist purchasing a weekend pass? I hadn’t heard of Laurelive prior to stumbling across this year’s lineup, but after looking into it, I could tell this was a legit festival worth the investment [I think we can all agree on thanking Fyre Festival for causing any apprehension when buying tickets to a festival we’ve never been to before].

So, Hannah [our very own media director!], my boyfriend and I booked an Airbnb about 30 minutes from the festival [trust me, the affordable price and Laurelive’s complimentary parking made the drive worth it] and made the four-hour drive from Cincinnati to Cleveland. The festival is held at Laurel School’s [an all-girls K-12 private school] 150-acre Butler campus.

Handmade friendship bracelets are a must.

The two main stages are positioned at both ends of the school’s track and field with food trucks and vendors outlining its circumference. The short walk from the gates to the main festival area is lined with local artisans and other crafters [think handmade jewelry, unique art prints and a locally-based wine slushie vendor; an obvious favorite amongst festival goers]. A third, smaller stage is also set up in this area where local and regional bands show off their talents.

When I entered, one thing immediately stood out to me: Laurelive is much more family-friendly than most music festivals. [There was even a kids’ area, complete with bounce houses and face painting, set up on the school’s tennis courts.] Blankets and lawn chairs dotted the large grassy area between the two stages as parents mingled with friends and barefooted kids ran around with bubbles and balloon animals. I noticed that most people just picked a spot for the day, set up camp, and enjoyed the music from a distance; a refreshing and laid-back atmosphere in comparison to the usual chaos of fans rushing from stage to stage in hopes of being barricade for their favorite artists.

While a variety of musicians took the stage over the course of two days, attendees couldn’t help but continuously browse the many local food vendors. From Asian cuisine and Thai bowls to barbeque and Italian, there was something for everyone’s taste. My favorites, though, were two local food trucks: Wild Spork and Cleveland Cookie Dough Co.

With a tagline like #SporkNotPork and a bright red truck, it’s hard not to stop at Wild Spork. The truck’s menu is 100% plant-based, but still has all the flavor of your usual, greasy, fried food [I mean, isn’t that the kind of comfort food we’re all looking for at this kind of event?]. Wild Spork’s menu is ever-changing, but the staple of the weekend was the buffalo ranch tots [the perfect blend of spicy and creamy atop crispy tots that keeps you full all day long].

Cleveland Cookie Dough Co.

Of course, how can you attend a music festival without treating yourself to some sort of sweet treat? Cleveland Cookie Dough Co.’s multi-colored, pastel truck mimics the aesthetic of a quaint cafe that you’d expect to see in some trendy part of New York City or Los Angeles … except it’s on wheels and it’s based in Cleveland so … better. The rich cookie dough has the consistency and flavor of what you’d expect of freshly made dough, but does not contain eggs so it is completely safe to eat. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, try CCDC’s signature dough-daes [equal parts cookie dough and ice cream that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth].

The atmosphere and experience that Laurelive provided is one that I haven’t yet experienced at any other festival in the past. I felt relaxed all weekend and the leisurely vibe seemed to make time stand still — it was like we were completely disconnected from the world beyond the campus.

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