Hardly Strictly Picnicking

Article by: Jennye Garibaldi

Sat September 27, 2014 | 00:00 AM

Bay Area! Everyone’s favorite free festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, is nearly upon us, and you know what that means: It’s time to get serious about picnic planning. Doing HSB right takes Boy Scout levels of planning and forethought. 

Follow our steps to succeed at festival picnicking:

Circle the Wagon

It’s all about getting your gear in and out of Golden Gate Park with ease, so bring a wagon to hold your cooler, blankets, low-back chairs and other stuff. If you have little ones, you can cram them in there too. Or, put ‘em to work and strap some gear to their backs. After all, kids are really just festival Sherpas.

Keep Cool

You've gotta have a cooler to keep those frosty beverages frosty. Bringing one on wheels may sound like a good idea but rolling the thing up and down GG Park’s dirt-path hills is a hassle. Our recommendation: Bring a six-pack-sized cooler and stuff it in your aforementioned wagon. Better yet, bring a soft-pack cooler that you can throw over your shoulder.

No Wet-Butt

You’ll need a ground covering to throw down on the grass. This being San Francisco, it’ll likely be a little damp, so bring something thick enough that it won’t give you wet-butt, like a blanket or a tablecloth. Nobody wants wet-butt. Pro tip: Bring a tarp to put under your blanket. BOOM. Picnicking like a boss.

Get Low

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Graphic 1 Helen Tseng

Chairs are great, and certainly save your legs from falling asleep after all those hours of sitting criss-cross applesauce, but be conscious of your fellow festivalgoers. Bring low-backed folding chairs so that the folks behind you can see all those great performers.

Chow Down

Okay, here’s where we get serious: food. This is San Francisco, people, and we don’t fuck around with the contents of our festival picnics. I’ve been known to bring teak cutting boards and Laguiole cheese knives by which to serve my prosciutto-wrapped melon and Humboldt Fog cheese. Truth be told, that was probably a bit much, but here are some tips for throwing down a worthy picnic:

• Bring food to share: cheeses, charcuterie, olives, crackers and spreads. Having communal food means you can share with festival friends around you. Also, all this grub looks really nice when it’s spread out on a platter. Yes, I said platter. Bring one (even a cheap, disposable one that you can recycle at the end of the day) to the festival, throw fresh grapes on it, maybe a few nuts, et voilà. You’re the Barefoot Contessa of Hardly Strictly.

• Keep it simple. As an alternative to the fancy-pants sharing economy, just grab some sandwiches and deli salads on the way there. Obvious choices include hot-pressed sandwiches from Tartine and deli salads from Bi-Rite. Done and done.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Graphic 2 Helen Tseng

• Booze it up, responsibly. You can bring adult beverages into HSB, but note their rules: “No hard alcohol or glass is allowed; beer and wine in non-glass containers ONLY.” This means you’ll need to bring cans of beer, boxes of wine (this might be the only time Franzia is socially acceptable), or transfer your wine into a festival-friendly container. Keep it classy and play by the rules with these adorable cans of Sofia Blanc de Blanc.

• Don’t forget the other stuff, i.e., the vehicles for shoveling food into your face. Napkins, utensils, paper plates, towels for spills—you’ll need all of it. Now’s a good time to pull out that stash of paper cocktail napkins that your mom keeps stuffing into your Christmas stocking or giving you as housewarming gifts or just leaving on your doorstep for no apparent reason other than to feed her addiction to shopping at Cost Plus. (Just me? Okay.) Also, bring a garbage bag. It makes clean-up time so much easier, and people around you will be impressed.

Play Clean

Do clean up after yourself. This is Golden Gate Park, one of our nation’s great green treasures. Keep it pretty. Keep it clean.

illustrations by Helen Tseng