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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

From neighborhood regulars to visitors from as far as Europe, more than 280 bands and thousands of fans turned downtown into a giant punk playground at Gainesville’s annual punk rock festival this past weekend.

Pabst Blue Ribbon was their life water, and cheap food was their fuel.

The Fest 9 crowd punctuated the singing, dancing and “festing” by swarming downtown food establishments Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“This weekend makes a football game weekend look like two people,” Gator Dawgs owner Otis Britt said. “I get 10 times the amount of people as a normal weekend.”

A meal at Gator Dawgs usually costs less than $5, making it an optimal dining spot for Fest fans on a budget.

Marta Puyana, chef for Flaco’s restaurant, said her weekend sales double from $3,000 to $6,000 during the annual festival, and customers from out of town often comment on Gainesville’s low food prices compared to the rest of the states.

“One girl asked me for a hug because of how much she enjoyed my food and how inexpensive it was,” Puyana said. “It’s fresh and it’s cheap, and I think a lot of people are pleasantly surprised by that.”

First-time Fest attendee David Hitchcock, of Fort Lauderdale, was also pleasantly surprised at Gainesville’s extensive selection of vegan and vegetarian options.

“A lot of us punks that come down here are vegan or vegetarian, and this is the first place in my entire life that I’ve seen standard restaurants offer so many vegan options,” he said. “And they’re really cheap, so I eat really well around here in Gainesville.”

Other restaurants like Boca Fiesta and Maude’s Classic Cafe changed their menus or offered special Fest discounts to accommodate the weekend’s large influx of empty stomachs.

“For people with Fest wristbands, coffee is only a dollar,” said Ryan Hickey, co-manager at Maude’s Classic Café. “We probably have the cheapest coffee in town right now.”

Jacob Ihde, co-owner of Boca Fiesta, said he hasn’t sat down to count profits from The Fest compared to other weekends, but he knows the restaurant gets packed because Fest attendees aren’t looking to grab a quick bite, but instead to stay awhile, to enjoy each other’s conversation and to listen to the live music.

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“It’s not about the money,” Ihde said.

“It’s about the music and The Fest. That’s why people are here.”

Editor's note: The original article was edited for clarity. 

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