As locals we get asked lots of weird questions about the music and arts festival so we thought we’d do up the ultimate local guide to the Electric Picnic 2017! You know, the type of stuff you’d never know unless you were a local. It’s a surreal experience for us because the village goes from a one sheep town normally to a complete hippyfest over night. The madness starts every year about 3 weeks before the rest of the nation descends upon the town of Stradbally. First in are the production crews, those of the magic beards, high viz vests and super black sunglasses. It’s all quiet apart from the spin of jeep wheels on the drive chippings, signalling the arrival of various crews and managers. The first sign that anything is happening is a queue in the post office. Next in are the security force, they talk to their shoulders a lot and move their heads slowly from left to right as you walk by. Incidentally, these are also dedecked with super black sunglasses. Slowly, the town gets shut down with one way systems popping up everywhere and we become ……… festival goers.
Parking and dropping off festival goers in Stradbally
So parking in the town of Stradbally won’t happen this year as the whole town has been populated with yellow no parking bollards and steel guides. It’s very important you know your squares (or else you know a local). The market square has been completely shut off to you (if you are a non-local) this year. This is the square in the centre of the town, bedecked with an four bay cast and wrought iron market shelter (dating from 1899 no less). That square is not to be confused with the other square which is up on Carlow side of town. This square is called Court Square and the library is located at the very top of it. You can drive around this square so it’s quite a good drop off point. The Court Square is located on the road which leads to family camping. Note you will not get into family camping without a family camping ticket (kind of obvious we know, but the amount of disillusioned festival goers we meet every year, trudging back from the access gate (in full sparking garb, high heeled wellies and dragging the newly bought sleeping bag across the dew covered grass) because they don’t have the correct ticket is like a spear through our hearts).
The gardai are in full blown Buzz Lightyear mode this Friday morning “thou shalt not pass, even though you live 100 metres from here – you must drive 5 miles out of your way to get home”. Traffic is heavy since 8.30am and will remain so until about 5pm. As we mentioned family campers turn off at Court Square, most others will come via the Timahoe Road or Portlaoise Stradbally road. You can come via Vicarstown onto the Long Mile road which will bring you straight into town. This is really handy if you are just dropping someone off, as you can turn right and drive straight down to the Taxi/Dropoff point. If you are a festival goer in ‘normal’ camping you will have to turn right about half way up the Long Mile road and follow the signs.
Best night time vantage point for the Electric Picnic from the village
If you haven’t got a ticket and just want to grab some of the vibe, one of the loveliest places to see the Electric Picnic in all of its glory is from the Windy Gap. This is located on the Stradbally Carlow road and is a steep winding road in the middle of which (to the right coming from Carlow) is located a forest which has parking for about 20 cars. The sky sparkles at night with all of the beautiful lights and strobes. The view of the wigwams and tents is just stunning, and you may even hear a faint version of the music as sound travels upwards.
Shopping for provisions in Stradbally
There are a couple of shops in the town. If you are looking for freshly baked scones, delicious breakfast rolls and bakers quality home made bread, head to Simpsons. They are located on the left hand side of the road, coming from the Carlow direction. They are about half way down the town but it’s worth the trudge. Tell them the Small Business Fairy sent you.
Supervalu is up straight across from the artists entrance just beyond the traffic lights. It’s on the right hand side (coming from Carlow). Currently it’s stocked to the gills with Heineken and the famous Heineken mini stage is in position. You can’t take anymore than 48 cans into the festival. To be honest if you can make your way through 48 cans or more in the space of 2.5 days we sincerely salute you. They also have a good stock of wellies – as the weather is supposed to get bad on Sunday, this might be a key piece of information. They have a limited supply of gluten free food in there too and all the usual Supervalu fayre after that.
There is a hairdresser (in case of festival hair malfunction) at the front of Supervalu, with a chemist (in case of any other kind of malfunction) and second hand furniture shop (in case you weren’t happy with your green 12.99 plastic fold up one from Lidl) to the back.
How to find your car
One of the worst things about the picnic is trying to locate your vehicle. You arrive in, take note of the number at the end of each row and head off merrily upon your way. However, what usually happens is thousands more cars will have driven in after you with the sole aim of hiding your car from all prying eyes. This makes it very difficult to locate said vehicle. The method for finding the car is as follows. We found if you click your car key the lights will flash in the distance. Lock it again. We then walk a few more steps in the general direction and press the key again. The lights flash. Lock and walk a few more steps. Unlock, lock, walk, repeat until the vehicle magically appears. If this doesn’t work, just lie down delicately under a bush until a) all the other vehicles have left the field, or, b) a security guard takes pity and gets the team to find it for you.
When you find your car
If you need fuel there is a service station in the middle of the town, on your left as you head towards Carlow. This is a tight squeeze (as we’re only a city for one month of every year) so be careful, a queue forms after 3 cars have driven in, their customer service is fantastic though. If you have enough in the tank, the next nearest garage will be located in either Athy in the county of Kildare (about 15km) or Portlaoise (about the same in the opposite direction).
If you have a flat tyre (God forbid) – on any vehicle – of any size – ask someone to find Willie Deegan the local tyre man. He will rescue you.
If you lose your keys – actually we are not sure there is anyone in the town that can help you there with that now.
Food and Drink generally
There are a couple of cafes in the town. Stradbally Fayre is located right beside Supervalu. If you fancy a walk (and sure why wouldn’t you after all that red bull and sugar rush from the trailer park), there is the Court Restaurant further down the down (back out towards the aforementioned Windy Gap). It’s on your left as you head towards Carlow.
If your arteries can take it, there are 2 chippers – The Arches (in between the hairdressers and Supervalu) and Roma (on the right hand side as you head towards Carlow. The Arches does a fine pizza if you get fed up of paying festival prices for food.
There are several pubs in the town. Napper Tandys’, Ramsbottom and Dunnes Bar. One may have shut recently. We can’t be sure as we have our favourite but we’re in the interest of being non biased we can’t name it here. All are located after the filling station on the left hand side. We don’t know why there are none on the right actually.
Finally, have a great time and we’ll see ya’ll on the other side.