What’s what at Gov Ball (besides the music!)

Images taken by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus.

New York City sure knows how to throw a three-day party. It also knows how to handle all of the eclecticness and craziness that comes with hosting a music festival. The Governors Ball, held at Randall’s Island Park this past weekend, evolved from its humble beginnings in 2011 to become something beyond just a venue with multiple artists performing. Now, the festival has grown to host dozens of food vendors, activities and events so there’s never a second of your weekend wasted to boredom, hunger or thirst.

If you didn’t have a chance to follow The Daily Campus as we vlogged our time at the festival this weekend, here’s your chance to catch up on the fun, as well as surprises, that this weekend brought. Aside from spending most of my day gearing up for the electric performances - which you can read about here (link to other article) - I only wish I could’ve had more time to explore all the photo op areas, food trucks and free stuff that Gov Ball had to offer.

Mother Nature throws a wrench into Sunday’s schedule

My sister and I spent a large chunk of our time on Saturday watching performances or waiting in a packed crowd for artists, and wanted to investigate even more of the overwhelming expanse of options Governors Ball made available. But the looming prospect of a summer storm threatened the festival’s final day of events, causing a delay in performances, an eventual evacuation and a full refund.

“First off, we want to sincerely express how sorry and upset we are that the festival had to delay opening and then eventually evacuate yesterday,” a message released from the founders on Monday night said.

At around 9 a.m. on Sunday, an announcement was issued across all of the festival’s social media accounts, including an email sent to attendees and the media stating, “We are actively monitoring today’s weather forecast. Stay tuned.” Festival-goers were warned against coming to the park until a decision was made. A few hours later, organizers announced that the start of the festival would be pushed until 6:30 p.m., with an updated schedule following shortly after.

“Your safety is always our number one priority.”

Attendees expressed anger at many favorite artists being cut completely from the schedule, such as Charli XCX; sets being shortened, such as Bazzi’s from an hour to half an hour or overlapping performances, such as with The Strokes and SZA. Audiences didn’t even get to see the headliners take the stage, however, because at around 9:30 that night, an emergency evacuation was issued by organizers as well as City officials.

Less than two hours later, Gov Ball organizers offered information about the cancellation as well as refunds for Sunday and three-day ticket holders. The founders released a concurrent message describing the details of the event for transparency, and hosted a talk via Reddit AMA on Tuesday.

“We simply had no choice given the data we received about the approaching severe weather,” the founders’ message said about the evacuation and weather. “Your safety is always our number one priority, and yesterday we did everything in our power to give you the most amount of music and Gov Ball as possible...There was no doubt in our mind that [offering refunds] was the right and necessary thing to do.”

The Brunch Club

A brunch program, running every day from 12 to 3 p.m., offered vendors’ brunch twists on their signature dishes. San Matteo, a Neopolitan pizza stall, sold cacio e pepe pizza, with the option to have an egg cracked right on top. King David Tacos served Texan-style breakfast tacos and the Gov Ball Bodega sold NYC bagels. They even offered rainbow bagels on Saturday in celebration of Pride Month.

Featured mashups and culinary classics

Aware of the warming temperatures, Gov Ball thankfully offered free water stations throughout the grounds so festival-goers could stay hydrated and healthy. In terms of staying hydrated in other ways (for those lucky enough to be legal), there were multiple 21+ areas selling classic drinks, such as beer in the Bud Light Dive Bar. And in typical NYC fashion, there were fun combos like coffee cocktails or tequila sunrises in Bacardí Bay.

From food trucks to long lines at endless food stalls, there was food at Governors Ball no matter where you looked. Certain vendors teamed up to offer exclusive mashup dishes at this year’s festival, such as queso from King David Tacos with The Melt Shop’s tater tots, a Doughnug Slider from the Doughnuttery and The Nugget Spot and fried pickles from Big Mozz and Grillo’s Pickles.

A LOADED rosemary chicken from the HeBros Resto Bar for lunch. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

A LOADED rosemary chicken from the HeBros Resto Bar for lunch. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

My sister and I, overwhelmed by trying to peruse the countless food options, opted for the loaded rosemary chicken from HeBros Resto Bar for lunch. It was just the right amount of unique and sophisticated festival fare, but fondly reminiscent of traditional greasy fair food.

After standing in front of the Gov Ball stage for almost six hours, we decided to reward ourselves with a classic dinner of nugs and fries from The Nugget Spot. It’s a Herculean task to try and find the food you’re looking for when it’s all the way across the park and lines were fairly long for every stall, but the meal was delivered hot, fresh and quickly so we can’t complain. I was pleasantly reminded of the delectable bites offered at Chic-Fil-A.
Next time, I’ll be eyeing dishes like the famous Ramen Burger, ice cream from the Milk and Cream cereal bar or the Japanese-Mexican street food from Takumi Taco. Luke’s Lobster, usually housed in a small shack under the Brooklyn Bridge, even made an appearance, offering fresh lobster for those with a taste for seafood. Vegan ice cream from Van Leeuwen and Belgian waffles from Wafels and Dingles were also crowd favorites. I could go on and on about how much food was offered at the festival, but you could find the rest here. No doubt there will be even more selections next year for the festival’s 10th anniversary.

Preaching PRIDE

Saturday brought the first day of Pride Month, and in addition to rainbow bagels and tributes from performing artists, a Pride parade was hosted by NYC drag queens Gloria Swansong, Hibiscus and Ms. Gold Delicious with three afternoon performances in the middle of the park. We were lucky enough to catch a fun rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.”

Gov Ball sponsor Bud Light was also celebrating Pride with limited-edition rainbow bottles, with $1 donated to GLAAD for every bottle sold to “assist in their efforts of creating a world where everyone can live the life they love,” according to the festival’s website. The Bud Light Dive Bar also featured an all LGBTQ+ lineup of artists for their exclusive performances.

Art Installations

Visitors to the festival are greeted by a stylized version of Lady Liberty. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Visitors to the festival are greeted by a stylized version of Lady Liberty. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

No doubt you’ve seen photos from Governors Ball on your feed, probably featuring one of the many artist installations that have doubled as photo ops for attendees. The colorful, urban aesthetic fits right in with the festival’s vibe.

A stylized head of the Statue of Liberty greeted festival-goers. Farther down, there were larger than life billboard-like signs with signature typography about the festival and life, imitating colorful graffiti, as well as colorful, translucent panels that formed a maze near the center. Equally large and colorful letters spelling out “Gov Ball NYC” were high on a hill, and lit up the night when the sun went down. An exhibit dedicated to Mac Miller was also present. Many of the artists can be found on the festival’s website.

Staying cool and cute

Many sponsors catered to fashionable festival-goers and offered fun ways to up their beauty. The OGX Beauty Playground garnered a long line, with a lush lounge and vanity area with hair experts that offered tips and fixed up hairstyles. The American Eagle experience tent gave out free fanny packs, while smaller tents like Hotel.com and Red Rock Deli (which also gave out free trips!) offered gold tattoos and glitter for the bold.

Then there were drink sponsors’ tents, from Aperol Spritz Italian Club to Campo Viejo to Red Bull, which allowed you to refresh yourself as well as had fun photo ops. Campo Viejo had a wall with bold, geometric wings and Pepsi had a cushioned, colorful swing set.

Staying active

Politically! HeadCount offered voter registration for those of age, with a large booth set up as well as volunteers walking around. They are a national, non-profit organization that “register voters at concerts, music festivals and entertainment events.”

To keep the island clean, the Gov Ball Bodega offered a recycling program for festival-goers to exchange a festival-issued bag of empty bottles and cans for a reusable Gov Ball water bottle.

Charity Corner hosted not for profit organizations, such as HeadCount, to raise awareness of social and political issues like gun violence and environmentalism. They hosted Tea Time events to facilitate discussions.

Reminding me of a grown-up version of an amusement park, Governors Ball had almost too much to discover. Next time, I’m definitely going to bring a plan to hit to the sites and food I know I’m interested in, but discovering the little corners of interest will never get old.


Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.