PILTON (Reuters) - A farm in rural England turned into a mini tent city on Thursday as fans flocked to Glastonbury, the world's largest open-air music festival, where megastars like the Rolling Stones will perform alongside more eclectic acts like chanting monks.
The event that started as a hippy retreat on a dairy farm in rural Somerset in 1970 has grown into a massive, five-day festival featuring about 2,000 acts on 58 stages attended by more than 135,000 people.
While veteran rockers the Rolling Stones are the major act at this year's festival, founder Michael Eavis has ensured the event stays true to its alternative roots with music of all genres as well as dance, circus, and meditation workshops.
As well as its megastars, Glastonbury is known for its mud with the fickle British summer often leaving revelers soaked through and covered in mud.
Meteorologists from Britain's national weather service, the Met Office, said the forecast for the weekend was for it to remain largely dry. But the heavens weren't playing along on Thursday evening.
"Bring your wellies it's raining," one camper told BBC radio.
Whatever the weather, the army of music fans descending on Glastonbury were determined to enjoy themselves, having paid 205 pounds ($315) each for tickets.
On Thursday the Gyuto Monks, a group of exiled Tibetan monks, were set to chant from a stage at the farm in Pilton, about 130 miles southwest of London.
The Grammy-nominated group live in exile in Dharamsala, north India, with the Dalai Lama who they followed into India when the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959.
"The work that the Gyuto monks do in the West has my full support," the Dalai Lama said in a statement.
The headline act on Friday is Britain's Arctic Monkeys and British folk band Mumford & Sons on Sunday who confirmed this week that bassist Ted Dwane is well enough to perform after undergoing surgery for a blood clot on the brain earlier this month.
For those wanting something more alternative or a break from the music, there are workshops on willow sculptures, hedgerow art, timber frame building, and Shamanic drum making.
Gates to Glastonbury opened on Wednesday to a stream of music fans hauling wheelbarrows laden with tents and beer and by Thursday the 900-acre site resembled a tent city.
Thirteen miles of fence rings the festival where there are about 350 food stalls, 198 pubs and bars, and 4,500 toilets.
Campers reluctant to rough it can opt for a more glamorous stay known as "glamping" with accommodation companies offering ready-pitched tents, golf buggies to navigate the massive site, champagne on ice, private toilets and hot showers.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)