I enjoy festivals. It’s not the crowds, because I could do without that. It’s the celebratory atmosphere, the neighborly chats, and the break in the everyday humdrum.
I just came back from the Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival. Even though it was cold and wet, my children and I had a really nice time. After several years of festivalling with my children, I’ve learned a few things.
1. Know where you’re going. I spent a half hour traipsing all over a small town with young children because I was too proud to get a map and too cheap to pay for a shuttle. These days almost everything is online. You can look up schedules, directions, everything. You just have to plan ahead.
2. Dress for the weather. And walking. I always make my kids where tennis shoes and socks, even if it’s scalding hot. Hot is better than blisters. I also try to prepare for the worst. It was fifty degrees outside today, but if we hadn’t all had long sleeves and winter coats, we would have frozen. Ponchos would have been a good thing, if I knew where ours were…
3. Eat first. And use the restroom. Even though festival food- fried everything- is one of the main draws to attend, trying to purchase a meal and a snack for a family of four can easily run to almost $50! If you eat before, you won’t be tempted to overdo it. And you can focus on enjoying your favorite treat instead of mere sustenance. The second is obvious- facilities are rare and rarely ideal.
4. Weigh the costs and benefits of paid parking. Often, if it’s a small town event, you can find street parking or after-hours business parking within a few blocks of the main attractions. It beats paying Joe Schmoe $20 for a patch of his lawn. On the other hand, I’ve found that young children have a limit on walking distance- if they’re exhausted by the time they arrive, it’s probably too far.
5. Pick a few favorite events or activities. Don’t try to do it all. Today, we ate pancakes for breakfast with the Lions, attended a parade, visited the Wakarusa Dime Store (home of the Jumbo Jelly Bean) and went to a magic show. It was actually a pretty full docket, but I can get away with it with older kids, and a very small venue.
6. Budget. Everyone wants your dollar. And I’ve gone between spending nothing (which is boring) and bending to every whim (not really, but I still felt guilty). The last few times I’ve only taken x amount of cash- so when it’s gone, it’s gone. Today I gave the children their own spending money, and I actually spent less. I could say no without reservation- they made their own choices (which, incidentally, was mostly buying candy).
7. Have fun. That’s why you came, right? Chances are the weather will be iffy, and something unexpected will happen. That’s part of the charm of the event. Keep your cool and your perspective. You’re making memories… no matter what.