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Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance


Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival
© Thomas Hoebbel

Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival - The Basics:

The Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival is one of the Northeast's most established world music festivals. It takes place annually on the second-to-last weekend of July in Trumansburg, New York (10 Mi. North of Ithaca). GrassRoots presents over 60 bands on four stages for four days, in just about every genre you could think of, with the emphasis being on world, folk and ethnic music.

The Music:

The GrassRoots Festival brings in dozens of new bands each year, but also hosts a slew of "regulars", including host band Donna the Buffalo, Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band, John Brown's Body (reggae), The Horse Flies (psychedelic old-time), and the Sim Redmond Band.

Food and Drink:

Over 25 food vendors sell everything from barbecue to gourmet vegan, Thai to hot dogs. You can also bring your own food. Spigots are available for drinking water, and ice is sold on-site. There's also a grocery store literally across the street for all your food & beverage needs. Alcohol is not sold on-site, but you're welcome to bring your own and drink responsibly. Coolers and IDs are checked at the gate.

Camping and Facilities:

Limited on-site camping is available at GrassRoots, but it generally sells out quickly. GrassRoots also owns a piece of farmland about a mile away, where camping is plentiful and shuttle buses run nonstop throughout the day and night. Parking is at this off-site lot, as well. Porta-johns are available both on and off-site, and running water bathrooms and (sometimes) hot showers are available on-site.

All-Night Zydeco and Cajun Dancing:

The Finger Lakes GrassRoots festival is famous for its all-night Cajun and Zydeco dance parties in the dance tent. The bands literally play until the sun comes up, so get your groove on!

GrassRoots Chamber Orchestra:

In keeping with GrassRoots' slogan, "A Music Lover's Paradise", the GrassRoots staff decided to expand their horizons even more and present a Sunday morning chamber orchestra concert. The group is led by renowned conductor Cayenna Ponchione and performs a variety of classical and contemporary works.

What to Bring:

A comfy air mattress, a blanket or chairs for sitting on, sunblock (lots and lots of sunblock), practical shoes, a flashlight (strap-on headlamps are great for festivals), food and drinks, a camera, plastic cups (so you don't have to walk around with glass bottles - a festival no-no), a cooler, baby wipes or wet wipes (to keep fresh without a shower), all of your friends!

Read More: What to Bring to a Music Festival

What NOT to Bring:

Pets, radios/stereos, generators, glass bottles (if you bring them, you need to use a cup for walking around), unnecessary expensive items (jewelry, iPod, etc.), high-heeled shoes.

Read More: Making the Most out of a Music Festival

Kids at Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival:

There are two active and exciting children's areas at GrassRoots, one for the younger set, and one for the pre-teen/teenaged set. The younger kids can enjoy clowns, jugglers, arts and crafts and lots of fun toys. The older kids can enjoy stilts (yes, stilts!), cooperative games, high-end crafts and bigger-kids toys (like juggling sticks, poi and the old favorite, frisbees).


GrassRoots is relatively cheap, as far as festivals go. Four-day tickets are $95 in advance for adults and $35 for kids 13-16 (12 and under are free). Tent camping is $50 and vehicle camping is around $100 (these options sell out well in advance). Off-site vehicle camping is $50. The camping passes cover your whole site (not the individual person), on which you are allowed to have four people, so split four ways, a group of four friends can each do the festival for less than $100 each.


The Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival depends heavily on volunteers to make it run smoothly. For twelve hours of work, you can get a free ticket. You can work in any number of positions, from the not-so-glamorous trash pickup to the always-interesting stage crew. Volunteering is always a great way to meet new people and discover "insider" information about groovy goings-on that might not be listed in the festival programs.

Disclaimer: I am an employee of the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival, and I have worked for them for many years. I've tried to present this information as factually and fairly as possible.
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