Festivals and Family

I was talking to a co-worker who just got back from Cornerstone. And who, it turns out, was probably under the same tent roof as I was at the same festival eight years ago.  Small world.  He was commenting about how cool it was to see a lot of kids (of all ages) having fun freely being themselves in a relatively safe environment, and contrasting that to other music festivals.  It’s a good point.  My worldview has changed a lot since the last time I went to Cornerstone, but as step-parent and soon-to-be parent of an infant, I think I’d still be a lot more comfortable taking my family to a Christian counterculture music festival than to any of the other music or counterculture festivals I know of.  The fact of the matter is that at Cornerstone, you actually have to try really hard to find drugs or alcohol.  Even cigarettes are rare, for that matter.  And while I’ve got nothing against any of those substances from a moral point of view, being drunk or high leads to irresponsibility, and irresponsibility doesn’t go well with young children.  Neither does secondhand smoke.

Similarly, I adore Highland Farm and the friends I have there, but I’ve become nervous about taking the kids to events there, if nothing else because of pall of cigarette smoke that tends to gather around any gathering, and the unrelentingly adult nature of the conversations.  I am far less protective than most parents I know – I believe in integrating the children as much as possible with our lives.  But even I have my limits.

This is a repeated theme I’ve heard from a lot of people who circulate in non-traditional communities of many kinds.  The family-friendly events just aren’t there.  This is at least partly accounted for by the fact that people with non-traditional lifestyles tend to be less likely to have children.  This is incredibly annoying for those of us who DO have kids.  Especially since it really doesn’t take much to make an event family-friendly.  You don’t have to completely change the nature of the event.  It’s more about being sensitive and aware than anything else.  Establish smoke-free areas (these are appreciated by more than just families with children).  Make sure people know there are kids present, so they don’t drunkenly hit on a 13-year-old.  Courtesy, ya know?

Anyone with experience of non-Christian, non-boring musical or cultural events which are genuinely family-friendly (and not just in a “we have a kiddie area for very young children” kind of way), please speak up.

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  1. Just got back from the School of Rock Festival:


    That was a good show for the kids (despite the Skoal tent being on premise, thanks to Clear Channel, but we complained and it was gone the next day!)

  2. Free Spirit Gathering, which is predominantly a pagan festival, is pretty kid friendly… well, if you’re ok with nudity as it’s clothing optional. They have kids programming. There’s a art and craft type programming that’s good for little ones, a school of witch craft and wizardry(ala Hogwarts, complete with robes) that is geared towards the older child, and classes geared towards teens. The evening musical performances are kid friendly and they can dance if they want to. There is smoking, but I never really minded it and I’m super picky about smoking. When I was last there wristbands were worn that designate age ranges… under 5, under 18, under 21. It has already taken place for the year, but it happens every year.


    We’re checking out Central PA Pride with our kids at the end of the month, but I’m not counting on it being super kid friendly.

    And smoking wise… I’ve found PA Ren Faire to be less smoke filled than MD. At MD Faire you can’t walk a foot without inhaling smoke on most days.

    1. Can’t resist…

      and they can dance if they want to

      …they can leave their friends behind
      ‘Cuz their friends don’t dance
      And if they don’t dance
      Well, they’re no friends of … mine?

      1. Re: Can’t resist…

        Hehehe…. I love that video! I totally didn’t think of that when I posted that. Must be the lack of sleep the baby is causing:P

    2. I’ve found PA Ren Faire to be less smoke filled than MD.

      Yes, perhaps. But less fun, and more expensive! :-p

      1. More expensive, yes… but if you go the season pass route PA’s only $10 more than MD for 6 more possible days. PA’s joust is also very cool, and last year each weekend’s joust was different. The Halloween weekend jousts we attended were especially cool… pyrotechnics… fire… a demon knight:P I have a thing for PA’s Halloween weekends.

        I found I enjoyed MD faire a lot more before I had kids. Back then I could relax, toss back a few meads, and just take it all in. Now that the we beasties are in tow the paved paths, low smoke levels, and flush toilets make life MUCH easier. The drunks also seem better separated at PA faire. I got tired of almost getting burned or having my garb burned by drunks wielding smokes at MD. I’ve literally felt the heat on my arm more than once. BLECH!

        1. It’s a matter of taste, regarding the joust – we found the PA joust to be way too cartoony and scripted, it was actually one of our least favorite parts. We like the more “traditional” jousts of the MD faire. It’s true there are are a lot of drunks at the MD faire, but that might have something to do with the fact that beer doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and require you to stand in a long-ass line 😛

          It really is a taste thing; we have a number of friends who swear by the PA faire.

  3. Yeah, I hear ya. I’d love to hear about that too.

    The Four Quarters farm folks always told me their events were family friendly, but I never found out first hand.

    I will say that almost every SCA event I attended was very family friendly.

  4. I’ve heard the same complaint from a few different parents at Highland. Maybe you don’t know but there is a kids weekend this weekend. They do nature hikes, pagan oriented games, totem work, arts and crafts, sing a longs, and all sorts of other kiddy stuff. The rules are more strict over the weekend. Alcohol has to stay in private campsites, and usually smoking is taken away from the group of kids. Just a thought.

    1. Yeah, I’m on the mailing list. In a few years or so we’ll have a child who’s up for that sort of thing. Right now we have precocious 12-13 year-olds, and it kind of sucks to be them sometimes because even when there ARE child-oriented activities they are way below their level, but they can’t very well sit around smoking and drinking and talking about sex either.

      I probably should have qualified that statement about Highland, though; I know that Lady K’s events are usually family-friendly, for instance, so it’s not like everything that goes on there is adult-oriented.

      1. Haha yeah I can remember what it was like to be 12, and it sucked. A lot of gatherings do tend to end up as drunken sex talk though. I know a lot of people have said the same thing though. I know that a few events are meant to be adults only but the rest are “supposed” to be family friendly. I would suggest you bring it up at a sponsors meeting or something. It is an important concern, one which is shared by more than just yourself.

    2. I guess the real issue I have is that I wish we didn’t NEED separate child-friendly events. I like to integrate my children into my life, and as a pretty liberal parent I don’t feel that it takes much to make an event family-friendly. I don’t expect event coordinators to provide childcare, or children’s entertainment. I’m not going to be shocked and offended if the kids see some nudity or hear some foul language. There are always going to be exceptions – I don’t ever expect to see a BDSM meetup advertised as fun-for-the-whole-family. But in a lot of cases a little sensitivity and awareness can go a long way.

      1. More alternative types are having kids these days, so perhaps we can hope for more alternative family friendly events?

  5. And Cornerstone does after all have an “Asylum” for all those gothy types to hang out and hide from the sun. 😉

    My set btw

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