Thousands of patrons started piling through the exits to be met with nothing but excessive rain, wind, and lightning. If you haven’t been to Hangout before—or Gulf Shores in general—you probably wouldn’t know the geography. Since Gulf Shores isn’t big enough to accommodate all of the festival goers, lots of them are forced to stay in Orange Beach and take shuttles/taxi’s over. To give you a better idea of what we’re talking about, we’ve included a map of the shuttle stops along the coast:
When thousands were streaming out of the festival, there was no where for them to go. There were probably enough taxis and shuttles for maybe 5% of the people trapped out in the weather and it’s over 6 miles from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach. Trapped with hundreds of others underneath a Waffle House awning that wasn’t really keeping us dry or warm, we finally gave up and set out on the long walk back to our hotel. Someone must have been watching out for us, because the moment we started running down the street, we saw our driver (who hadn’t been answering his phone due to such a high volume of calls) pull up and stop right next to us. We were able to throw ourselves in the van with 22 other people and be escorted to warmth, but we drove past thousands more trapped in the rain, and one of our writers texted us later that night and said that he had to run all the way to Orange Beach.
We don’t want to sound like we are just here to complain—the festival has been great so far barring this—but there were lots of ways this could have been avoided. Firstly, letting people wait under the Boom Boom Tent could have kept a lot of people dry and safe instead of being forced into the weather with no ride home. Secondly, we want to be clear that the blame is definitely not all on Hangout’s shoulders, the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach seemed extremely ill prepared to deal with a situation like this, as far as transportation goes. Uber doesn’t exist here, but we had friends who got a Left home (4 miles) and it cost them $78. Wow. Something has got to be done about this if Hangout ever wants to grow as a festival.
It’s almost funny looking back on the experience, but had the storm taken out the lights, we’re almost positive that chaos would have followed, and that this would be a much different article. We hope this serves a learning experience for the festival, the towns, and the festival goers. Stay within walking distance or you’ll spend an excessive amount of money and time on travelling the short distance.