Several days ago, I wrote a little about my planned trip to the Austin City Limits music festival and the overall cost of attending. I have since returned and, while my ears and bank accounts are slowly returning to normal, one part of the experience will stick with me forever: being surrounded by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people.

While I’m not certain of the exact number, estimates put total attendance somewhere around 450,000 people over the course of the festival’s two-weekend run.

Never in my life have I seen so many people all in one area. For those who have never been to Zilker Park in Austin, where the festival is held each year, imagine an open 350-acre field of rolling grassy hills, with just a few large trees scattered throughout. Aside from the stages and vendor booths, which are largely on the park’s perimeter, there isn’t much else inside. But ACL draws so many people, the park is pretty-well filled to capacity.

Getting from one stage to another was a surprisingly intense experience. Festival goers form human highways as they travel from place to place, and their paths weave wildly through the crowds. If you want to stick with your friends, its best to lock hands or grab hold of their shoulders, otherwise you’re likely to lose them. ACL veterans are easy to identify, as they often carry telescoping flag poles, making it easy for friends and strangers to navigate through the masses.

Once at your desired stage, it’s best to get comfortable with your neighbors. The closer it gets to concert time and the more popular the performer, the thicker the crowd becomes. People stand shoulder to shoulder, they bump into you, and step on your toes. Every direction you look, you see nothing but people. It’s not at all an experience for the claustrophobic.

Overall, I was impressed with the civility and patience of the crowds. And with so much good music, it’s hard not be in a mood that follows suit.

Happy birthday Friday to Josephine Ford, Arlene OMalley and LaNisha Collins, all of Denison; Garland Parker of Sherman; Marshall Lyles of Cedar Park; and William Harris of Laguna Niguel, California.

Happy birthday Saturday to LaRhonda Jones and RoRo Cox, both of Sherman; Elaine Tyson of Pottsboro; Avery Jones of Bells; Travis Dotson of Trenton; George Cox of Bedford; Brittney Tully of Weatherford; and Charles Hunter of St. Albans, Vermont.