How to Create a Festival Totem 101

Vibe Team | March.09.2020

@VibeWithAde here to tell you how to create a festival totem!

What’s that in the crowd? A meme of The Office? A light-up orb? A blown-up bendy straw? If you’ve attended any major festival, I’m sure you’ve come across festival totems that fill the crowd. These totems are great for groups to find one another in the crowd as well as great conversation starters. You can get so creative with it so I am going to provide some tips on how to create the ultimate totem. I’ve created many totems in my day so hopefully, this helps you create something awesome.

The Purpose of Totems

So what’s the point of carrying that heavy piece of poster board wrapped in lights? Totems can be great for large groups who break off from one another so that you’re able to find the squad when you go to another set or go to the bathroom. Totems help people identify you in the crowd. They are also great conversation starters to meet fellow ravers and festival-goers. There are so many times I started a conversation with someone because of the meme they had on their totem or the complexity of it. I use totems so that my followers and subscribers of my blog and YouTube channel can find me and say hi!

My Evolution of Totems

The first totem I ever made was for EDC Las Vegas 2017. It was going to be our rave fam’s first time at EDC and as a group of 50, we wanted to be able to find each other since we all had different music tastes. We knew we were definitely going to be splitting up, but wanted to be together for the same sets like Porter Robinson. We created this totem that was a great conversation starter that said “AZ, We’re Not in Rawhide Anymore”.

 How to make a festival totem 101

This was a great conversation starter for anyone that goes to events in Arizona and knows the main event space is Rawhide. This totem served us well for multiple EDCs and it was also at Nocturnal Wonderland. The bright green really helped us identify it in the crowd.

Once my blog and brand started to kick off and a lot of subscribers and followers wanting to meet up with me, I decided to create a totem that could help them find me. This totem had my logo on one side with broken CDs around it that gave off this holographic reflective color that was super cool when the sunlight and lasers hit it. Then I did a Chris Lake reference on the other side from his song “Operator” since he was at both Freaky Deaky and Ubbi Dubbi.

Evolution of Festival Totems

Sometimes things don’t always go to plan though and sadly the weather ruined my totem at Ubbi Dubbi when an unexpected thunderstorm came through…

I was so sad this happened, but still wanted my tribe to be able to find me so my boyfriend and I walked around Walmart and found these fun bouncy balls that we could attach to the PVC poles we still had.

How to make a festival totem

After what had happened, I decided to invest more in a solid totem and decided to work with Lit Totems (@lit.totems on Instagram). They created a totem for me with my logo that was super cool, lightweight and lights up! This has been upgraded to a different print since Electric Forest, but I love having a sturdy option.

I also have a flag that I got created by University Customs and my friend Emma Kapotes’ made a collapsible flag pole which I think is a great totem that you can easily travel with if you have to fly to festivals.

Festival Totems

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for the different totems you can create as you begin your totem journey.

How to Create a Totem

Typically, you’ll have your standard PVC pole then attach something to it. We’ll break down the different options you have based on effort and investment to give you some ideas.

Little to No Effort Totem Ideas

If you are wanting a quick and easy totem idea, you could always look for an inflatable of some sort, like this inflatable straw @savhaas is holding, and use that as a totem. 

Inflatable Straw Festival Totem

I’ve seen a lot of tootsie rolls, crayons, smarties, and pickles in the crowd. Inflatables are a great option and easy to carry. Also when the festival is done you can easily deflate it and put it away.

A Little More Effort Totem Ideas

If you are wanting to get a little crafty, you can do a lot of different things. You could get a flag made and attach it to a pole. You could create a poster board with a meme and attach it to a pole. 

Pro Tip: For PVC poles, I’ll go to a hardware store and I’ll get a 10 ft. 1inch diameter PVC pole. Then we’ll cut off a two ft. section and cut that two ft. section in half so you’ll have two 1 ft. sections. Then we’ll take the 8 ft. section and cut that in half to have two 4 ft. sections. So in total, you’ll have two 1 ft. sections and two 4 ft. sections. You’ll then want to get the following connectors for these poles (make sure they fit the diameter of the pole while you’re at the store try it out!).

You’ll attach one ft. section to each side to form the top of the T-Shape then you’ll insert the one four ft. section to the bottom opening to form the rest of the T-Shape. Then you’ll want to get a  connector like this one to connect the two 4 ft. sections to one another. 

This will help you have a totem that breaks down so you can carry it easily to and from the festival and it can fit in your car.

A Lot of Effort Totem Ideas

If you are wanting something more out of a totem that has all the bells and whistles, lights up, etc., then you’re looking at more of an investment and time commitment to create something truly awesome. You can create intricate totems that light up, are programmed to different lighting settings and whatnot. This may require having some sort of technical background or reaching out to customizable totem companies to create a totem for your squad.

The world is your oyster when it comes to creating a totem as you can get super creative with it. Here are some of our favorite totems we've seen over the years:

Our Favorite Festival Totems

We hope this helps you generate some ideas to create the perfect totem for your squad! If this blog post inspired you to take a stab at creating a totem, be sure to tag us in your pics so we can see what you create @vibedration.

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