Flocking to the Rock
For fans like Jimmy and Jill Sullivan, annually attending Rocklahoma is as much about hanging with friends and campground good times as it is about seeing bands they love from the past and present.
If you’ve never been to Rocklahoma, Jimmy and Jill Sullivan would say you are missing out. The popular multi-day rock fest draws a host of people like the Sullivans, who make a vacation out of the event, coming back each year and camping out with friends they’ve made at the festival in years past.
The Sullivans have attended Rocklahoma since its kickoff in 2007. “We attended with three friends from Longview [Texas] and another friend from Altus High School [Okla.] who now lives in Weatherford [Okla.],” says Jill. Since that momentous experience, the couple has missed only two years due to circumstances beyond their control.
“We have made it known to the masses, this weekend is taken,” says Jimmy. “It would take something major for us to miss again.”
What first drew the Sullivans to Rocklahoma was, of course, the music. As children of the ‘80s, they love seeing the bands they grew up with. Over the years, groups like Poison, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Dokken, Warrant, Skid Row, Tesla, Night Ranger and tons of others have rocked the concert stages out in Pryor, Okla.
As the years have gone by, though, the Sullivans say their friendships have been a big reason behind their decision to return to the festival each year. Attending Rocklahoma these days, they say, is about hanging out with friends and experiencing new music, as much as it is about seeing bands they love from the past and present.
“It’s been such an amazing evolution,” Jill says. “We have met people from different places that we never would have encountered were it not for Rocklahoma, and we have made lifetime friendships. We have run into high school friends, people we have met at other concerts [in Texas], and have brought along many others from Longview.”
Among the long-term friends they’ve made at the concert is a Dallas couple, Brandon and Kristie Jenkins, with whom they now visit multiple times throughout the year, in addition to Rocklahoma. “We developed friendships with a group of people from Kansas City that have led to a decade of memories,” says Jimmy. “Jill even became an ordained minister to marry one of the ladies from this group.”
Of course, the Sullivans and their group of Rocklahoma friends can’t say enough good things about the musical aspects of the festival. They love seeing performers bring it onstage. “But those late nights singing at the top of our lungs to our campground speakers will be the moments that I cherish the most,” says Jill.
The biggest challenge to attending Rocklahoma may be the same thing that plagues anyone camping anywhere — the potential for bad weather. After all, May in Oklahoma often brings both rain and heat in equal measure. It’s a part of the experience, but the Sullivans say it pays to be prepared for occasional concert cancellations or other weather-related issues.
“We’ve lost generators in floodwaters and ruined canopies in rains,” says Jill. “At this point, I’m just glad we all have real jobs, or we wouldn’t be able to afford to replace the items that have been lost.”
But in spite of the occasional weather issues, the Rocklahoma experience has been overwhelmingly positive year after year for the Sullivans and their friends. “It’s just such a great atmosphere,” says Jill. “From the people who work the gate, the beer tenders, and the concert-goers, it is a friendly, inviting atmosphere.”
Since their second year attending, the Sullivans have opted to invest in the VIP experience, which they highly recommend to other festival-goers. “The VIP experience is the best in the business,” says Jill. “Having an assigned seat in an area where you can set your drink in a cup holder and stand or sit to see your favorite band from high school or check out a new act that you haven’t seen before is unlike any other venue can offer.”
“The VIP parking is great for hanging out with friends,” adds Jimmy. “The VIP tent offers a break from the weather, free beer and the necessary food to minimize the potential for being a drunk idiot. Reserved seating allows people to roam to the side stages, use the bathrooms and rest at the RV without losing your spot. Other festivals lack one or more of these critical elements that maximize the experience.”
If you’re still wondering whether or not to make a visit to Rocklahoma this year, the Sullivans say to just jump in; the water’s fine. You’ll have a blast, maybe for many years to come, just as they have.
“It is such a wonderful way to get away from it all on a fun-filled weekend with people who you have things in common with,” says Jill. “Music has been a huge part of our lives since we were teenagers, and we now get to experience that with people we love. We used to go for the lineup, and now I believe that the lineup is a plus to our annual Memorial Day vacation. We are so thankful for the wonderful friends we have made and for all of the amazing memories we have. For as long as they build it, we will come.”
Tips for Rocking Your Visit to Rocklahoma
Pros like the Sullivans have learned through experience how best to enjoy your time at Rocklahoma. Here are a few of their favorite tips to ensure you have an experience you’ll want to repeat next year … and for years to come.
Get VIP seating
You can spreadsheet how much beer and food you will buy and justify general admission, but the experience won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Plus, who wants to haul a chair that far from parking. Bottom line: VIP seating gives you a lot of advantages worth paying for.
Be strategic in planning your schedule
Since there are multiple bands playing, you’ll want to choose who to see. Don’t go just for the big names, though of course if you have a favorite, get in position early to see them. Beyond those favorites, be open to checking out the bands that are new and hungry. They can give you a great experience. So can the side projects led by well-known musicians, because those side project bands are often creative and distinct. You can easily research the bands ahead of time online to listen to their stuff and see if you like them.
Pace yourself as you party
Yes. We know. You’re camping there so you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and that’s awesome. But the all-day partying can have negative consequences. “I’ve regretted missing or not remembering some headliners,” says Jimmy. Beyond that, it’s not so fun getting sick while you’re camping.
There are two ways to approach this. First, leave your own little camping or seating spot for a while to chat with people nearby. Second, make your own area comfortable so that others are encouraged to stop by and visit you. The Sullivans say they’ve made some of their best friends at Rocklahoma, just by being friendly.
Embrace the time off
Sure, you could play on your Facebook app while the bands are playing. But don’t be that person. You’re at Rocklahoma to get away from your routine, so do things differently and be present. Leave work and other issues behind you if possible by planning ahead.
Be prepared for the elements
Rocklahoma takes place in Oklahoma, after all, where the winds sweep down the plains. Don’t be paranoid about getting stuck in a twister, but do be ready for bad weather by packing boots, a rain jacket, pallets, carpet to set atop mud, and so on. Be aware of the weather at all times.
It’s going to be hot and sweaty
Be just as ready for hot weather as rainy weather. And don’t forget that with the long days and the many beers you’ll drink, you can easily get dehydrated if you’re not careful. In other words, use sunscreen and drink water.
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