Beyond Wonderland

Sep 14, 2015

Beyond Wonderland Bay Area ProTip: How to Make a Festival Totem

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Written by: Glow Jess

Love them or hate them, totems are a big part of the atmosphere at Insomniac festivals like Beyond Wonderland, Bay Area. They are a fantastic way to keep tabs on your group, enabling everyone to be able to venture off, and easily return to the group. Let’s face it, no one wants to spend all their time on their phone, trying to find cell phone reception, when you could be enjoying the event. I personally love seeing the creativity and imagination that goes into people’s totems, it is like another piece of art to take in. That being said, here’s some tips and things to keep in mind when creating your own unique totem.

The Pole
This is probably the most important part of the entire totem, yet the most overlooked. If the pole isn’t able to support whatever it is that you decide is your totem, then you won’t have a totem come the end of the night. Many of you will be riding the shuttles to the speedway, so making sure your totem easily collapses to fit on the bus is very important. Maximum height for totems at Insomniac festivals is 10 feet, so keep that in mind when deciding on what kind of pole to use.

Pool Noodles: Traditional totem poles were pool noodles. If you decide to use a pool noodle as a pole, keep in mind how flimsy they are. Do yourself a favor and opt for the thicker, nicer pool noodles. Another option is taking a plastic pvc pipe, or even a dollar store plastic broom stick, and placing it inside the hole in the pool noodle. This will make it more sturdy, yet still soft and light weight.

PVC Pipe: This is a great light weight option. The biggest problem with PVC pipe is it does not easily collapse down. You also need a method of secure any joints in the PVC pipe so it does not fall a part when you are dancing around with it. Duct tape is great for this.

Light Wood: While this is a sturdy option, it does carry a bit more weight than the other options. It also does not fold down.

Aluminum or Polycarbonate Telescoping Poles: These are probably the best option in my personal opinion. Some options for this are telescoping flag poles, camera poles, and pool cleaner poles. Just make sure the pole is lightweight and not solid metal. Pool cleaner poles, once you remove the net, the frame of the net can easily support a sign with plenty of surface area to attach to.

The Totem
Okay, onto the fun part, the totem itself! This can be anything, so a great idea and imagination is key.

To help get you started brainstorming, here’s some ideas:

  • Internet memes
  • A saying or quote
  • Inflatable toys (must be deflated upon entry)
  • Something for your favorite DJ
  • A favorite character
  • Celebrity faces

No matter what you choose, keep in mind these key things:

Colors: The brighter the better, and pick colors that compliment each other. You want it to been seen. If it has words, make sure that they are clear and easy to read from far away.

Weight: The heavier the totem the more uncomfortable it can be to carry all night. So the lighter the better! Hopefully it is light enough to be able to dance with comfortably. Talk to your group about taking turns carrying it.

Wind: Although not always a problem, it can be. If you construct your sign so that it is sturdy it can be very wind resistant.

Lights: My FAVORITE part! Some of the festival is at night. So lights on your totem are very important. Unless your totem is a very unique shape, they will likely look similar to other totems when it is dark, especially signs. So light it up!! El wire, battery operated led lights, those foam light up tubes, or glowsticks. Get some kind of light on it that is easily seen from far away.

Totem Guidelines from Beyond Wonderland, Bay Area website

  • Maximum height is 10 feet.
  • Totems must be made from a lightweight material (e.g., foam, PVC / no solid metal).
  • Collapsible/telescoping camera extenders that follow the above guidelines are OK (lightweight/hollow aluminum/polycarbonate).
  • PVC, light wood, aluminum poles must be no thicker than 1 inch in diameter.
  • Decorated pool noodles work great for easy entrance through security.
  • Inflatables attached to totems must be deflated upon entry.
  • Any item deemed dangerous will not be allowed.

Don’t forget to be respectful to those around you. Have fun with your totem! We can’t wait to see all the amazing totem creations people come up with this year at Beyond Wonderland, Bay Area.

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Totem20_edited-1  Totem32

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About the Author

Glow Jess



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