How to Make a Festival Totem in 3 Easy Steps

Festival totems can make all the difference in your rage crew having a good time and an awesomely memorable time.

If you have ever been to a festival and have gotten separated from your friends, surely you have found yourself gazing above the crowd for a signature landmark that could help you pinpoint their location.

All in all, totems are a creative outlet that provide humor and bring smiles to the entire crowd.

Totems make you personable and approachable. I have met more people in one weekend at one festival (CounterPoint ’14) carrying my totem than I did at my previous three festivals combined. And this is no exaggeration.

I have been to festivals with large groups of people – both with and without a totem – and there is no question that having the totem presents the ideal situation. Especially at the larger festivals cell phone reception is at an all time low, it can be challenging to find your friends if you get separated.

With everyone taking videos, sending text messages, and updating social media, relying on a signal can leave you scouring the crowd for hours focusing more on finding your rage crew than on the experience in front of you.

Yet this can all be avoided. In the midst of the beaming lights, thumping bass, and screaming ravers, on thing protrudes above the crowd like a beacon calling you home: the festival totem.

Ever thought about building your own totem?

There are many factors to consider when building your own rage stick. While it may seem like a simple theory, it is more than just taking an object and sticking it to a pole.

A few things to consider:

  • Weight – How heavy your totem is can really determine how much fun you actually have carrying it throughout the weekend. If it is more than a couple pounds, you might find yourself struggling by the end of the weekend. Substitute materials where necessary. I find alot of times you can easily use styrofoam in place of wood.
  • Surface Area – The more surface area your totem has, the more susceptible it is to wind. For some reason, it always seems like there is a wind storm at whatever festival I go to. If you have a totem that is flat with a large amount of surface area, you will be fighting a weekend long battle with mother nature. Avoid this at all costs.
  • Height - One of the most fun things about having totem is the ability to shake it around relentlessly. Make sure it is tall enough so that you are not smacking any one in the head/face while you are dancing around.
  • Light – Consider utilizing electro-luminescent wire or glow paint to help your totem stick out at night.
  • Color - When choosing what color to make your flag/totem, choose colors that are not dull and will not blend in with the scenery. Avoid black, brown, or green at all costs.

We take a look at all you need to know build your very own festival totem and be the saving grace of your entire festival crew.

Step 1: Choosing a base.

There are multiple routes you can go when choosing how to support your totem.

The main recommendation I have is to choose something that is collapsible. This will allow for easier storage and transportation to and from the festival grounds.

A collapsible, telescoping flag pole can provide all that you need. 12-15 feet has proven sufficient for me in the past. This height will allow you to rest the end on the ground while not blocking the view of any one behind you.

Another possible route is to choose a telescoping pool cleaner pole complete with the squared netting at the end (this is my personal recommendation). The squared frame attaches easily to the pole and provides the perfect support for any thing you might want to attach to the top of the pole (but we will get in to that later).

Yet another option is to attach a flag to the pole. To do this all you need to do is put zip ties through the grommets of the flag and attach it to the pole.

As you can see in the picture to the right, I attached a flag as well as two pieces of plywood to the aforementioned square pool netting.

The divets allowed for the sign to pop right off. I could then collapse the pole and pop it right in the trunk of my car for easy transportation.

A nice accessory is a spiral umbrella anchor.

The spiral umbrella anchor will allow you to place your telescoping flag pole in to the ground so that you are not required to carry it the entire day. This lightweight, easy to carry addition is inexpensive and easily screwed in to the ground, offering a sturdy platform for your totem/flagpole.

Step 2: Choosing the Head of the Totem

Once you have established your bass, it is time to get creative. You can use a wide range of different mediums to create the “head” of your totem including the following:

  • Styrofoam – Lightweight and easy to shape. Probably the most ideal medium. Also easy to attach to the pole using tape or by attaching something to the pole that can penetrate through the styrofoam.
  • Wood – Sturdy but heavy. Depending on how big you make your design, the totem may turn out very heavy and be difficult to carry around for an entire weekend. This also increases the surface area and makes it more susceptible to blowing over in wind gusts.
  • Cardboard – Easily manipulated. Can be easily shaped/painted/drawn on. Easily attached to pole. Downside is that cardboard is not durable at all and will likely not survive through a long weekend.
  • Anything else - Get creative! I have seen people attach any thing from blow up dolls to pool noodles to a pole

The good thing is, is that there is no strict definition as to what defines a “festival totem.” Some of the best totems I have seen have been completely random. I once even saw a kid who duct taped a pineapple to a stick and had the time of his life.

Step 3: Attaching the Totem

This is probably the most tricky part. It really depends on what type of base you choose to support your totem. Certain poles (such as the pool cleaner) have an area where attachments can be secured.

It is a little bit easier to tape/tie/glue items to these attachments. It really just comes down to getting creative, improvising, and finding what works best for you. Some mediums that are the best when it comes to attachments:

  • Duct Tape
  • Electrical Tape
  • Zip Ties
  • String
  • Rope

Step 4: Decorate

Once you have finished securing both ends of your totem, all that’s left to do is decorate. Little accessories can make all the difference in setting your totem apart.

Some of the best additions are the most random things you can find. From tinsel and electro-luminescent wire to plastic forks, I have seen everything added to totems and they all serve their purpose.

Again, this is not a end all, be all for how to make totems.

The hope is that this provided just a little bit of guidance and can get you going in the right direction. The best totems I have seen have been completely random and thrown together last minute.

What it really boils down to is choose a stick, attach something to said stick, and jump up and down with that stick in hand. Just make sure it does not obstruct the view of any one around you and is safe. Otherwise, you are all ready to rage!